Telemedicine

Antibiotic Resistance: Can This Global Threat Be Contained?

The Pulse of Telehealth - Weekly posts discussing the benefits of telehealth for medical providers.

Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the results of a global study examining the effects of antibiotic resistance. The findings emphasized that resistance to once helpful antibiotics is causing more deaths each year, something that doctors have cautioned against for decades. Sadly, these medications are doing more harm than good for some people, due to over abuse and misuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drug resistant germs infect about two million people each year. From those two million, 23,000 die from their illness.

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This rapidly growing issue is problematic because new antibiotics that can kill the bugs don’t yet exist. As a result, medical providers are being forced to treat these patients with more toxic drugs or mixtures of antibiotics that cause adverse side-effects. It is a vicious cycle that the WHO warns will continue to spiral out of control and kill more people if not contained. C. dificile is one of the most resistant germs to antibiotics; it infects people all over the world, including the United States. Other major infections stem from bloodstream infections (sepsis), diarrhea, pneumonia and gonorrhea.

How can antibiotic resistance be contained? Experts urge the following:

  • Prevent infections in the first place (although more difficult for some parts of the world) through better hygiene, drinking clean water, vaccinations, and infection control within hospitals and other healthcare facilities
  • Create new diagnostics that can help stay ahead of developing resistance
  • Use antibiotics only when prescribed by a doctor
  • Complete the full prescription of antibiotics (misuse is just as dangerous as over abuse)
  • Avoid sharing of antibiotics with others
  • Improve infection control and prevention within communities
  • Prescribe antibiotics only when truly needed
  • Standardize appropriate use of antibiotics
  • Promote cooperation and education among the healthcare community

The use of safety scripts is highly encouraged, especially in telemedicine. Patients are informed to only fill the prescription if their symptoms do not improve within a certain period of time. In this way, providers are doing their part to control antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics have played a huge part in curing disease; it is important that we all do our part to keep it that way.

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