Proper medication use can prevent deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Related Story

COLUMBIA - Antibiotic-resistant bacteria infects more than two million people and kills at least 23,000 every year. That's according to the CDC, which has focused on the issue during the national "Get Smart about Antibiotics Week," which runs through Sunday.

Christelle Ilboudo, an infectious diseases expert at University of Missouri Health Care, said in a press release: "Antibiotics have been used so widely for the last 70 years that the bacterial infections they were designed to kill have adapted, making treatment less effective."

Two causes of resistance are antibiotic misuse and overuse. The CDC says up to 50 percent of the antibiotics prescribed by doctors are either not needed, used improperly or aren't taken for the correct length of time.

Alex Smith, head pharmacist at Flow's Pharmacy, said people think they should use antibiotics more than they actually should. 

"A lot of things - sicknesses and that type of thing, especially this time if year - can be due to viral infections rather than bacteria," he said. "So if you have a viral infection, which is like the common cold, the flu, that type of thing, antibiotics wont do anything to help treat it."

Another misconception Smith said people have is that they don't need to take antibiotics for the prescribed number of days. 

"If the physician wrote a prescription for a seven-day treatment of antibiotics, and you take three days and you start to feel better, a lot of time people think, 'Well I'm better, so I'll quit taking them,' but truly you should continue that full course of antibiotics to fully kill the bacteria."

Some antibiotics need to be used for a certain amount of time or have a certain concentration in the body to work, Smith said.

He said he tries to prevent antibiotic misuse by consulting with patients on proper use. For example, he said he will tell patients certain antibiotics will not work if they take them with a multivitamin because the two will bind together and prevent the antibiotic from getting into the bloodstream.

People who have antibiotic-resistant infections might have to take alternative medicine that is less effective, more expensive or has extreme side effects.

Experts and federal agencies agree: Antibiotic-resistant bacteria shouldn't be taken lightly. 

"It's a big problem," Smith said. "It seems like the rate of new resistant bacteria is going faster than the rate of new medications to treat those resistant bacteria, so you almost have more bad bacteria than you have new good medications."

The World Health Organization has additional tips for individuals to prevent antibiotic resistance:

  • Take antibiotics only when a health professional prescribes them
  • Don't save antibiotics for later
  • Prevent infection in the first place by thoroughly washing hands, avoiding contact with sick people and getting vaccinations

Finally, if patients have questions about their antibiotics, Smith said, "Don't hesitate to call the pharmacy."