Dr. Bray Links

Friday, March 25, 2016

Why Antibiotic Use Scares Me

by Joshua Horton

I read a study recently that alarmed me: acute bronchitis is a condition that rarely requires antibiotics, but three quarters of patients presenting with this condition receive a prescription for antibiotics. Even more worrisome, this statistic has not changed in 20 years. To those of us on the cusp of a career in medicine – I am a fourth year medical student – this is terrifying because we are going to have to deal with the consequences. Antibiotic overuse leads to:

  • Increased morbidity and mortality for patients infected with resistant bugs
  • Unnecessary and exorbitant healthcare expenditures
  • The potential to cultivate multi-resistant bacteria that could spread to pandemic proportions

In November, the World Health Organization (WHO) published findings of a large global survey assessing the understanding of antibiotic resistance among subsets of the world population. Twelve countries were surveyed, chosen to encompass varying income levels, populations, and preexisting knowledge of antibiotic resistance (Nigeria, South Africa, Barbados, Mexico, India, Indonesia, Egypt, Sudan, Russian Federation, Serbia, China and Vietnam). Surveys were conducted online or face-to-face and nearly 10,000 (n=9,772) response sets were recorded. The key findings, as listed in the report, were:
  1. 65% of respondents had taken antibiotics within the last six months
  2. Antibiotic use was higher in poorer countries
  3. 72% acknowledge that many infections are becoming resistant to antibiotics
  4. 25% think it’s okay to use antibiotics from a friend or family member
  5. 43% think it’s okay to re-use antibiotics that helped them in the past
  6. 32% say they should stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, rather than finish the course (especially in Sudan, Egypt, and China)
  7. 64% reported that cold and flu should be treated with antibiotics
  8. 57% think there is nothing people like them can do to help prevent resistance
  9. 76% believe “resistance” means that their body is becoming resistant to the drug


I like and encourage debate and healthy skepticism. I think it is through a skeptical eye and open debate (as well as careful observation) that we can come to greater truths. The blog "Science-Based Medicine" provides a weight against being so open-minded that your brain falls out as can be present within the anti-conventional medicine communities. (adapted from Walter Kotschnig November 8, 1939). But as with much information on the internet, it is filled with its own biases and strong emotions to gain an populist edge.


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