What is Antibiotic Stewardship?

Antibiotic Stewardship is defined by the CDC as set of commitments and actions designed to “optimize the treatment of infections while reducing the adverse events associated with antibiotic use”.

Why is this important?

Antibiotic resistance (or antimicrobial resistance – AR / AMR) is one of the biggest public health challenges of our time. Each year in the U.S., at least 2 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection, and at least 23,000 die as a result. Antibiotic resistance has the potential to affect people at any stage of life, as well as the healthcare, veterinary, and agriculture industries, making it one of the world’s most urgent public health problems.

No one can completely avoid the risk of resistant infections, but some people are at greater risk than others (for example, people with chronic illnesses). If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, then we lose the ability to treat infections and control public health threats.

Many medical advances are dependent on the ability to fight infections using antibiotics, including joint replacements, organ transplants, cancer therapy, and treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Antibiotic Resistance Explained:

It is common knowledge that antibiotics are one of the most revolutionary discoveries to impact global health. But, did you know that antibiotic resistance has been existed since Penicillin was first introduced? As each new advancement in medicine is discovered, more antibiotic resistance emerges.

Antibiotic resistance happens when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. That means the germs are not killed and continue to grow.

Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant germs are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat. In most cases, antibiotic-resistant infections require extended hospital stays, additional follow-up doctor visits, and costly and toxic alternatives.

Antibiotic resistance does not mean the body is becoming resistant to antibiotics; it is that bacteria have become resistant to the antibiotics designed to kill them.

Why is antibiotic resistance happening?

The most important cause of antibiotic resistance is inappropriate use or overuse of antibiotics. The CDC reports that 30% to 50% of antibiotic use in hospitals is unnecessary or unwarranted.  This is because antibiotics are often prescribed when they aren’t needed.

What can you do?

Several important steps can be taken to decrease inappropriate antibiotic use:

  • Take antibiotics only for bacterial infections. Don’t use antibiotics for conditions caused by viruses such as the common cold, flu, cough, or sore throat.
  • Take antibiotics as directed by your healthcare provider. Using the wrong dose, skipping doses, or taking it longer or shorter than directed might contribute to bacteria resistance. Even if you feel better after a few days, talk with your healthcare provider before discontinuing an antibiotic.
  • Take the right antibiotic. Using the wrong antibiotic for an infection might lead to resistance. Don’t take antibiotics prescribed for someone else. Also, don’t take antibiotics left over from a previous treatment. Your healthcare provider will be able to select the most appropriate antibiotic for your specific type of infection.