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Antibiotics are important medications. It would be difficult to overstate the benefits of penicillin and other antibiotics in treating bacterial infections, preventing the spread of disease and reducing serious complications of disease.

One has to consider that some medications that used to be standard treatments for bacterial infections are now less effective or don’t work at all. When an antibiotic no longer has an effect on a certain strain of bacteria, those bacteria are said to be antibiotic resistant (Mayo Clinic GeneGuide™: 2018)

Currently, antibiotic resistance is a global health problem. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics are key factors contributing to antibiotic resistance. The general public, doctors and hospitals all play a role in ensuring proper use of the medications and minimising the development of antibiotic resistance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to one-third to one-half of antibiotic use in humans is unnecessary or inappropriate (Mayo Clinic GeneGuide™: 2018). This occurs especially in acute care centres. When compared to other sites of care, these patients are more likely to receive antibiotics unnecessarily. Researchers found that nearly half of patients visiting urgent care centres who were diagnosed with an acute respiratory condition, for which antibiotics are neither recommended nor effective, came away with an antibiotic prescription (Rosenberg: 2018)

But overprescribing them has resulted in the development of resistant bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotics that may have worked in the past. Plus, whenever kids take antibiotics they run the risk of side effects, such as diarrhoea or even an allergic reaction (Joseph: 2015)

For many years, the introduction of new antibiotics outpaced the development of antibiotic resistance, but in recent years, however, the pace of medication resistance has contributed to an increasing number of healthcare problems. Approximately two million infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria occur in the United States each year, resulting in 23,000 deaths.

Other consequences of medication-resistant infections include:

  • More serious illness
  • Longer recovery
  • More frequent or longer hospitalisation
  • More doctor visits
  • More expensive treatments

The appropriate use of antibiotics — often called antibiotic stewardship — can help to:

  • Preserve the effectiveness of current antibiotics
  • Extend the lifespan of current antibiotics
  • Protect people from antibiotic-resistant infections
  • Avoid side effects from using antibiotics inappropriately

Many hospitals and medical associations have implemented new diagnostic and treatment guidelines to ensure effective treatments for bacterial infections and reduce inappropriate use of antibiotics.