The American Academy of Pediatrics is charging that the use of antibiotics in farm animals is a major contributor to the problem of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans. Meanwhile, new, alarming information from the World Health Organization is making it clear that we must look much further to understand the scope of the problem.
The agency surveyed 10,000 people in 12 countries, excluding the United States, to assess their knowledge about antibiotics and how they should be used. Overall, about 65 percent of survey respondents said they had used the drugs in the last six months. People in the 16- to 24-year-old range were more likely to have used them in the last month than those 65 or older.
Among the information gathered were these troubling findings:
- A quarter of respondents incorrectly thought is was OK to use antibiotics given to another person, as long as they're used to treat the same illness.
- Further misinformation included the idea that antibiotics should be stopped when the patient feels better this is a great way to accelerate the development of resistance.
- A majority of respondents (65 percent) didn't understand that antibiotics cannot treat viral diseases such as colds and influenza.
- Although 72 percent of respondents understood that many infections are becoming resistant to antibiotics, 76 percent incorrectly thought that meant that humans were becoming resistant. Of course, it's the bacteria that are becoming increasingly resistant.
In the U.S., the CDC is partnering with numerous organizations to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance among healthcare workers as well as the public at large. Rates of antibiotic prescribing vary widely across the country (see chart below), but the CDC estimates that 50 percent are unnecessary or ineffective against the condition for which they are prescribed. And President Obama has proclaimed November 16-22 as "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week."
"The way we use antibiotics today impacts how useful they will be tomorrow," said Lauri Hicks, D.O., director of CDC s Office of Antibiotic Stewardship. "We all have a responsibility to be vigilant: consumers, parents, healthcare providers, hospitals, governments. We are especially pleased that many organizations and companies are joining the ranks to promote public awareness.
Both the results of the WHO survey and the statistics presented by the CDC speak volumes about the complicated route we must follow to effectively deal with the antibiotic resistance issue. Healthcare providers, farmers, consumers and pharmaceutical companies too, will all have to step up to the plate to prevent us from losing perhaps the most effective means of fighting many diseases.