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97 Percent of Doctors Are Concerned About Antibiotic Overuse

CRE bacteria is responsible for 600 deaths a year and cannot be treated by antibiotics. CREDIT: AP IMAGES/CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
CRE bacteria is responsible for 600 deaths a year and cannot be treated by antibiotics. CREDIT: AP IMAGES/CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION

Nearly 100 percent of doctors are concerned about the growth of multi-drug resistant infections from the overuse of antibiotics, a study released last week by Consumers Report found. Almost 30 percent of surveyed doctors had a patient either suffer severe complications or die as a result of a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection.

The study, which surveyed 500 doctors who regularly prescribe antibiotics, found that 85 percent have had a patient with this type of infection in the past year. Doctors are working to turn these trends around; the participants in the study said they’ve taken steps like refusing to prescribe non-necessary antibiotics and prescribing them for the shortest possible time. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also told doctors to be more careful when diagnosing infections to prevent prescribing antibiotics for viral infections.

Ninety three percent of the doctors also said that they were worried about the use of antibiotics in livestock; around 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States are fed to animals being raised for food. These antibiotics are often used to increase animal growth, not to combat diseases, and have been linked to drug-resistant infections in humans. Nonetheless, the Food and Drug Administration has reviewed fewer than 10 percent of the antibiotics used in animals for their risk of creating drug-resistant “superbugs.”

It is not just American doctors who are worried about the overuse of antibiotics. Last Wednesday, the World Health Organization said that the “crisis” of drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis continues with over 400,000 new cases. WHO said that while only 3.5 of people with TB have a drug resistant form, only 48 percent of sufferers are successfully cured of it.

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In Europe, campaigns that promote ending the unnecessary use of antibiotics have seen some success. A 2002 campaign in France led to a 26.5 percent decrease in prescriptions of antibiotics over five years. A similar campaign in Belgium led to a 36 percent decrease in prescriptions. Public Health England, a branch of England’s Department of Health, recently launched the “Antibiotic Guardian” campaign which asks people to take a pledge to reduce their use of unnecessary antibiotics. But the meat industry in the U.S. remains less regulated than Europe’s.

A study released earlier in October found that livestock is not the only food source treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics were also found in wild fish and fish that were marketed as “antibiotic free.” While all the antibiotics were below legal limits, the study leader said that since they were present even after the fish was processed and frozen, the original levels were higher.

According to that study, several types of farmed fish were found to contain tetracycline, a type of antibiotics used in humans. Feeding chickens a type of tetracycline may have contributed to last year’s antibiotic-resistant salmonella outbreak, an investigative piece by Reuters found.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that over two million people get sick and 23,000 die annually from drug-resistant infections. CRE-based infections, which have high antibiotic resistance, have increased by 500 percent between 2008 and 2012.