Hospitals fight antibiotic resistance, superbugs

Hospitals around the country are trying to reduce antibiotic resistance and stave off drug-resistant superbugs in patients through antibiotic stewardship programs and community education.

Doctors at Oklahoma University Medical Center and Mercy Hospital try to make it clear to patients that antibiotics aren't always necessary, John Harkess, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City, Okla., told "You just explain that this is probably a viral infection. Antibiotics do not change the course of the viral infection and antibiotics have potential risks," he said.

Doctors and nurses also monitor the use and prescription of antibiotics, and also help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention track resistant bacteria cases, according to the article.

Such stewardship programs help raise awareness and foster proper handling and prescribing of antibiotics, according to a Harvard Gazette article about a panel on drug-resistant bacteria at the Forum at Harvard School of Public Health. Panelists suggested hospitals become involved in enhanced monitoring for drug-resistant infections in the community, as well as educating consumers about the dangers of drug resistance.

These measures follow the release of a 2013 CDC report, which noted that more than 2 million people get sick each year as a result of drug-resistant infections and roughly 23,000 people a year die from the illnesses. The report identified three urgent drug-resistant organism threats: Clostridium difficile, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and carbapenum-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.

The CDC recommended the healthcare industry fight antibiotic drug resistance by:

  • Offering immunizations, infection control, screening, treatment, and education to prevent infections from occurring and prevent resistant bacteria from spreading;

  • Tracking resistant bacteria;

  • Improving the use of antibiotics; and

  • Promoting the development of new antibiotics and new diagnostic tests for resistant bacteria.

Even the U.S. government is working to combat drug-resistant infections, according to Robin Robinson, director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the authority will support the development of Carbavance, an agent that can treat illnesses resisted to antibiotics, such as complicated urinary tract infections, hospital-acquired pneumonia, ventilator-acquired pneumonia and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.

Although there is a decline in inappropriate use of antibiotics to treat acute respiratory tract infections in many outpatient settings, the number of adults still receiving those antibiotics in emergency departments is high, according to a study abstract published by the American Society for Microbiology, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the article
- check out the Harvard Gazette piece
- read the article
- here's the CDC report