Health System Pharmacist Offers Advice for Combating Drug Resistant Bacteria

A study released by the World Health Organization on April 30, 2014, reports that drug-resistant strains of bacteria are now a serious health threat worldwide. The report, "Antimicrobial resistance, a global report on surveillance" reveals that antibiotic resistance, which happens when bacteria change in some way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of drugs, can now be found in every region of the world.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that in the United States, more than two million people are sickened every year with antibiotic-resistant infections, with at least 23,000 dying as a result.

Laura Limburg, Pharm.D, a pharmacy clinical coordinator at Southeast Georgia Health System-Brunswick Campus, explains that while a number of factors have contributed to the sharp rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria, the most significant is overuse and improper use of antibiotics.

"One of the biggest problems in the community is people using antibiotics to treat viral infections, such as a cold or the flu," she says. "Antibiotics do not work on viruses, so if you try to treat a virus with an antibiotic, it just kills the good bacteria in your system and can cause drug resistant bacteria to grow."

Although the problem exists among all age groups, children are of particular concern because they have the highest use of antibiotics. "Parental pressure makes a difference. For pediatric care, a study showed that doctors prescribe antibiotics 62 percent of the time if they think a parent expects them and only seven percent of the time if they feel parents do not expect them," she says.

The first step in fighting back against antibiotic resistance is to use antibiotics wisely. "Most upper respiratory infections are viral, so taking an antibiotic will not cure the infection, help you feel better or keep other individuals from catching the illness," Limburg adds. "You should consult your doctor or pharmacist about other ways to feel better from a virus. These may include medications that help control some of your symptoms while the virus runs its course."

Other steps to take to fight back against antibiotic resistance include the following:

If you are prescribed an antibiotic, do not skip doses or discontinue the prescription when you begin to feel better. Take the complete prescription as directed by your doctor.

Do not dispose of antibiotics by flushing them down the toilet, as this causes the antibiotics to get into the drinking water supply and contributes to antibiotic resistance.

Practice good infection prevention measures including diligence with hand-washing and getting recommended vaccinations.

Meet Pharmacist Laura Limburg at the Southeast Georgia Health System Community Health & Wellness Fair on Saturday, June 7, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the new Brunswick High School. Limburg will be one of the pharmacists on hand from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to provide free Brown Bag Medication Reviews. Bring all your medication bottles, both prescription and over-the-counter, in a brown bag to have a pharmacist discuss your medications with you, including possible drug interactions. For more information about the Community Health and Wellness Fair, visit sghs.org/healthfair, or call 912-466-2140.