‘Superbugs’ kill more than 35,000 people in the US each year. Doctors may be partially to blame, study suggests

As the medical community develops treatments to combat the coronavirus, another deadly enemy continues to lurk in hospitals across the country: antibiotic-resistant infections.

Antibiotic resistance is considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be one of the “greatest public health challenges of our time,” and a new study suggests that clinicians may be partially to blame for its prevalence.

The study, published last week in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Network Open, found that more than half of the antibiotics prescribed in hospitals were not consistent with recommendations, alarming health experts who say prescribing drugs too inappropriate contributes to antibiotic resistance.

“We are in an antibiotic crisis. Many are calling this the ‘silent pandemic’ occurring at the same time as the coronavirus pandemic,” said Dr. Debra Goff, an infectious clinical pharmacist and pharmacy professor who leads resistance efforts to antibiotics at Ohio State Wexner University. Medical Center.

In the agency’s study, researchers looked at 1,566 patients who received antibiotics and found that 55.9% should not have received them according to practice guidelines.

The guidelines did not support prescribing antibiotics for 79.5% of patients who were treated for community-acquired pneumonia and 76.8% of patients who were treated for a urinary tract infection.

Prescriptions were marked if there were no documented signs or symptoms of infection, if there were no laboratory results, or if antibiotics were prescribed for longer than necessary.

Of the patients who may have been prescribed antibiotics unnecessarily, more than 50% lacked documented signs or symptoms of infection, and nearly 60% received medications for an excessive duration.

Patients are often given antibiotics when they are hospitalized and then prescribed a new course of antibiotics when they are discharged, Goff says, prompting them to take medications for up to two weeks.

“These antibiotic duration football scores (7, 10, 14 days) were not developed based on clinical outcome studies. Those durations were just how the researchers designed the study, ”he said. “(But) there is data that clearly shows that these traditional durations are no longer necessary … the sooner the better.”

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Taking more antibiotics than necessary increases the chances that a patient will develop resistance to antibiotics, said Dr. Ryan Shields, an infectious disease pharmacist and associate director of the antibiotic management program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

This occurs when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat drugs designed to kill them, according to the CDC.

Studies have shown that patients with antibiotic-resistant infections are at higher risk for worse clinical outcomes, such as severe illness and death, compared to patients with infections that can be treated with antibiotics.

This may be due to significantly longer hospital stays, a high risk of treatment failure, and an increased risk of undergoing surgery, Goff said. According to the CDC, more than 35,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections in the US each year.

They are not only deadly, but also expensive. According to a January report from the CDC and the University of Utah, six multi-drug resistant pathogens are estimated to cost the US more than $ 4.6 billion a year.

“Every day they are in the hospital consuming resources,” Goff said. “Add it all up … antibiotic resistance costs a lot of money.”

Additionally, antibiotics that specifically target antibiotic-resistant pathogens are more expensive than traditional antibiotics, priced at around $ 400 to $ 1,000 per day compared to about $ 25.

The CDC study was conducted between 2011 and 2015, which means prescribing practices have likely changed since the report, UMPC’s Shields said. In 2017, the Joint Commission enacted a new accreditation standard for antimicrobial administration programs in hospitals to educate staff and professionals on antibiotic resistance.

However, it’s not just doctors who have a responsibility to fight antibiotic-resistant infections, health experts say. Often the main reason patients visit their doctors is to get a prescription for antibiotics.

“When you are paying for a visit to the doctor, many go to the doctor for the antibiotic. They put pressure on the doctor, ”Goff said. “That is where the consumer and the patients also need education.”

Follow Adrianna Rodríguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

Patient health and safety coverage in USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competence in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘Superbugs’ kill more than 35,000 Americans each year. Are doctors to blame?

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