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Five Ways to Take Action Against Antibiotic Resistance

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November 14-20 is Get Smart About Antibiotics Week.

by Patricia McTiernan, MS

Get Smart - Test Your Knowledge About Antibiotics

Take the CDC's quiz about proper use of antitbiotics.



According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, more than 2 million people in the United States get infections from germs that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 of these people die as a result. The CDC considers antibiotic resistance to be among the most pressing threats to public health today, and the drive is on to increase education and awareness about the issue.

Antibiotic resistance happens when bacteria stop responding to the drugs intended to kill them. This happens over time, as bacteria adapt and change. Inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to the problem, because when a strain of bacteria is weakened, but not killed, it can develop ways to survive, or resist, effects of antibiotics.

The CDC leads Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, November 14-20. In advance of the week, here are five ways health care practitioners, patients, and organizations can take action.

  1. Collaborate. It is important for all members of the health care team to work together and with patients and families to reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics. Pharmacists and infection control professionals can help advise clinicians on the best antibiotic to use in each case. Clinicians can help patients understand when antibiotics are needed and instruct in the safe use of antibiotics. Find resources for patients and for health professionals.

  2. Stop the spread of bacterial infections. Practicing good hand hygiene consistently every time, with every patient, is the easiest way to reduce the spread of bacteria that cause infections. This applies to health professionals, but also to patients and family members. If you need a refresher course in handwashing, here’s how to do it right.

  3. Prescribe correctly and adhere to prescribing instructions. Estimates suggest that more than half of the prescriptions for antibiotics written in the US each year are, in fact, not necessary. When a bacterial infection is present and antibiotics are the best choice, health care practitioners need to be careful to use an antibiotic that will be effective while causing the least risk of side effects. Clinicians can learn more about safe prescribing.

    Patients need to understand the importance of taking antibiotics exactly as prescribed. Moreover, like all medicines, antibiotics come with risks that patients and families should recognize.

  4. Practice antibiotic stewardship. By instituting an antibiotic stewardship program, health care practices and organizations can improve individual patient outcomes, reduce the burden of antibiotic resistance, and reduce health care costs. The CDC has tools to help organizations get started on antibiotic stewardship.

  5. Share what you learn. Used appropriately, antibiotics save lives and allow for advanced treatment of disease. Yet, according to materials from the CDC, if antibiotic resistance continues unabated, “we risk turning back the clock to a world where simple infections could kill people as they did a century ago.” The World Health Organization and others recognize this as a global threat. Spread the word to your professional colleagues, neighbors, friends, and in your community.

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Do What are your plans for Get Smart about Antibiotics Week? Comment on this post below and visit the CDC at Note: to post a comment you must be logged in. Register or log in.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fact Sheets,
Pew Charitable Trusts. How Antibiotic Resistance Happens.

Patricia McTiernan, MS, is editor of the P.S. Blog. Contact her at

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Tags:  antibiotic resistance  CDC  infection 

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