Ark. Dept. of Health: Today's drug-resistant health threats

    8:08 AM, Sep 17, 2013   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Ark. Dept. of Health) - Every year, more than two million people in the United States (U.S.) get infections that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die as a result.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a landmark report presenting a snapshot of the burden and threats posed by the antibiotic-resistant germs having the most impact on human health. The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world. Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used in human medicine. However, up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary or inappropriate.

    "Antibiotics are a precious, limited resource and if we overuse and misuse them today we will be less likely to have effective antibiotics tomorrow" emphasized Dr. Gary Wheeler, Branch Chief, Infectious Disease, at the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). According to the CDC, loss of effective antibiotic treatments will not only cripple the ability to fight routine infectious diseases but will also undermine treatment of infectious complications in patients with other diseases. Many advances in medical treatment, such as joint replacements, organ transplants, and cancer therapies, and improvements in the treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and other immunological disorders, are dependent on the ability to fight infections with antibiotics.

    The CDC report ranked the threat in categories of urgent, serious, and concerning. Threats were assessed according to seven factors associated with resistant infections: health impact, economic impact, how common the infections is, 10-year projection of how common it could become, how easily it spreads, availability of effective antibiotics, and barriers to prevention.

    In addition to the toll on human life, antibiotic-resistant infections add significant and avoidable costs to the already overburdened U.S. healthcare system. In most cases, antibiotic-resistant infections require prolonged and costlier treatments, extend hospital stays, and require additional doctor visits and healthcare use.

    Arkansas has a small CDC grant to compile aggregate data on the antibiotic resistant problem in Arkansas and to provide education to the medical community. The Arkansas Hospital Association and Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care are important partners in this effort. Hospitals in Arkansas are acutely aware of the importance of addressing this issue. There is a multi-disciplinary Healthcare-associate Infections (HAI) workgroup made up of physicians, nurses, consumers and others who meet regularly to address the problem and solutions for Arkansas. For more information visit this website http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programsServices/epidemiology/Pages/HAI.aspx#1.

    Drug Resistance is not a problem that will be solved by a single entity. It will take diligence on the part of physicians, hospitals, other healthcare providers and patients to combat this serious health threat. The CDC has identified four core actions that must be taken:

    1. Preventing Infections, Preventing the Spread of Resistance: Avoiding infections in the first place reduces the amount of antibiotics that have to be used and reduces the likelihood that resistance will develop during therapy;

    2. Tracking: CDC gathers data on antibiotic-resistant infections, causes of infections and whether there are particular reasons (risk factors) that caused some people to get a resistant infection;

    3. Improving Antibiotic Use/Stewardship: Perhaps the single most important action needed to greatly slow the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant infections is to change the way antibiotics are used;

    4. Development of Drugs and Diagnostic Tests: Because antibiotic resistance occurs as part of a natural process in which bacteria evolve, we will always need new antibiotics to keep up with resistant bacteria as well as new diagnostic tests to track the development of resistance.

    Drug development for new antibiotics and new antifungals is necessary but is not enough to combat the growing problem. Antibiotic stewardship is critical to win the battle. CDC encourages patients to be actively involved in their care. Patients are encouraged to ask questions such as "Do I really need an antibiotic for my problem?" "Does your facility have an antibiotic stewardship program?"

    Wheeler added, "We urge you to work with your healthcare provider and pharmacist to find the best treatments for you or your family."
    For more information call the HAI program at ADH at 501-661-2296 or visit the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/features/AntibioticResistanceThreats/index.html

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