World Antimicrobial Awareness Week brings awareness to the alarming rise in antibiotic resistance throughout the world and encourages best practice for antibiotic use among healthcare professionals, the general public and those involved in healthcare policy.
The discovery of penicillin in 1928 marked the beginning of a new age in medicine. Antibiotics emerged as an adversary against the many deadly microorganisms that have taken millions of lives throughout the centuries.
Today, we are at new crossroads when it comes to antibiotics – antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally but has increased dramatically through recent years due to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. We are now entering an era where common infections and injuries will once again kill thousands of people because antibiotics are no longer effective. In the United States alone, it is estimated that 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections will occur, and more than 35,000 people will die as a result.
The CDC estimates there are 18 different types of resistant bacteria and fungi that are threatening the world’s health. Examples of infections that are quickly becoming more difficult to treat due to antibiotic resistance include those that cause gonorrhea, tuberculosis, urinary tract infections, wound infections, pneumonia, and foodborne illnesses. People who receive medical care are more likely to be susceptible to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). Most of the HAIs are caused by the most urgent and serious antibiotic-resistant organisms. These resistant organisms put individuals at a greater risk of sepsis and death.
To combat this alarming trend, it is imperative that all healthcare organizations from acute care hospitals, nursing homes, doctor’s offices and rural clinics develop and follow antibiotic stewardship policies and procedures. We must ensure we have the appropriate infection prevention and control practices in place, there is adequate data and tracking systems to monitor antibiotic-resistant organisms and measures are taken to improve appropriate antibiotic use.
Antibiotic stewardship involves the entire healthcare team from the microbiologists who identify infectious organisms to the practitioners who prescribe antibiotics down to the bedside/clinical staff who educate patients on appropriate antibiotic use. We all play a role.
While there is not a “one size fits all” approach to antibiotic use in any healthcare organization, resources are available to help each organization develop an antibiotic stewardship program that fits their needs. The CDC, Infectious Disease Society of America, The World Health Organization and The Joint Commission provide antibiotic stewardships guidelines, recommendations and standards to assist each healthcare organization protect their patients and the communities they serve.
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