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The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the American Society of Internal Medicine and the Infectious Disease Society of America have guidelines on the appropriate use of antibiotics.

They tell consumers, in effect, “Don’t demand them,” and medical doctors, “Don’t prescribe them.”

Nov. 13-19 is World Antibiotic Awareness Week. The event promotes awareness of the public health threat from the increase in microorganisms that are resistant to antibiotics.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week is marked by the engagement of the public, policy makers, health professionals and students through social media and local events to raise awareness and understanding of the problem worldwide. The goal is to spark change so that antibiotics are used only when necessary.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, in partnership with the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and College of Pharmacy, has established a statewide Antimicrobial Stewardship Collaborative of South Carolina to reduce the threat of antimicrobial-resistant organisms in South Carolina. Antibiotic stewardship means using the right drug at the right dose for the right amount of time.

Antibiotics are treatments for bacterial, not viral infections, and worldwide bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics used to treat both common and life-threatening infections. Infections due to antibiotic-resistant organisms used to be a more significant problem in hospital settings but they are now increasing in long-term care settings such as nursing homes, and in community-acquired infections.

The increase in antibiotic resistance is resulting in longer illnesses and more deaths. Unfortunately, new antibiotics are not easily developed and treatment options are decreasing. Each year, in the United States alone, 2 million people become infected with resistant bacteria, and 23,000 people die because of these infections.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 50 percent of antibiotics given for human illnesses are for an incorrect dosage or duration. Many antibiotics are given when patients expect a prescribed antibiotic for illnesses like the common cold or other minor upper respiratory infections that antibiotics are not helpful for. The unnecessary use of antibiotics contributes to the development of resistant bacteria and these bacteria can be passed from one person to another causing infections that are more difficult to treat.

ASC-SC is working with health care providers across the state to promote antibiotic stewardship and reduce antibiotic resistance. ASC-SC has organized regional meetings across the state to engage clinicians, infection preventionists, pharmacists and laboratory technologists and then brought experts in these fields to a statewide meeting to share effective practices for the use of antibiotics and to do surveillance to detect resistant bacteria. The work of ASC-SC In the coming year will include studying antibiotic prescribing practices in South Carolina to find ways to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions, developing a profile of patterns of antibiotic resistant organisms, and helping health care facilities adopt CDC-recommended antibiotic stewardship activities.

Whether it’s using antibiotics when and how prescribed or obtaining inoculations against diseases as instructed, to win the war against infection, we’ve got to play smart. Medicines must be used in complement with the God-given ability of the human body to fend off disease.

Being good patients and practicing medicine courageously can make a difference in America’s health.


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