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Improving Antibiotic Use

Medical illustration of C. difficile (deadly diarrhea)Combat antibiotic resistance and practice antibiotic stewardship principles: ask your doctor if antibiotics are necessary, take your antibiotics exactly as your doctor tells you, and don’t share or save antibiotics.

Fighting Antibiotic Resistance with Antibiotic Stewardship

Antibiotics can be miracle drugs but they also have risks. Poor prescribing and use practices are putting patients at unnecessary risk for preventable allergic reactions, super-resistant infections, and C.difficile infections (deadly diarrhea). Antibiotics can fight infections and save lives when used at the right place, at the right time, and for the right duration. However, the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in our country is contributing to antibiotic resistance—when bacteria stop responding to the drugs designed to kill them.

More and more bacteria are becoming resistant to the antibiotics that remain in our arsenal. Every year, more than two million people in the U.S. get infections that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a result. If drug-resistant germs keep growing and if we lose the effectiveness of antibiotics, we may also lose our ability to treat patients with sepsis, cancer, and organ transplants, and save victims of burns and trauma. Unfortunately, developing new antibiotic drugs could help but not save us from this fate because resistant germs evolve faster than we are able to develop drugs to treat them. We're going to have to change how we use the antibiotics we already have. One way CDC is combating resistance is by supporting antibiotic stewardship programs across the nation to make sure that antibiotics are prescribed and used appropriately.

Viruses or Bacteria? What’s got you sick?

Chart of illnesses and when and when not to treat them with antibiotics

View Larger Chart [193 KB]

Antibiotic stewardship does not mean stopping the use of antibiotics; it means using antibiotics when necessary and appropriate. Stewardship programs will help us change the way antibiotics are prescribed and used today. CDC finds that between a third and a half of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are either unnecessary or the antibiotic does not match the germ. Antibiotics are not needed, for example, for colds, most sore throats, and many sinus infections. (See CDC’s infographic on “Examples of When Antibiotics are Urgent and Necessary [2.39 MB] for more information about when antibiotics are needed.)

Stewardship programs can reduce antibiotic resistance and healthcare costs, and increase good patient outcomes. For example, reducing the use of high-risk antibiotics by 30% in hospitals can lower C.difficile (deadly diarrhea) infections by 26%. We all have a role to play: by committing today to stewardship and other infection control principles, like proper hand hygiene, we protect the effectiveness of antibiotics in the future.

CDC, the White House, and Other Leaders are Fighting Resistance Together

On Tuesday, June 2, leaders from human and animal health organizations across the country are joining together at the White House to discuss how they can support antibiotic stewardship. Leaders are joining forces to improve antibiotic prescribing and use because they realize that antibiotic resistance and the use of antibiotics does not just affect the individual, but the future of our whole community. As these leaders share their commitments, you can take part in preventing resistance, too.

White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship

  • The event will be focused on improving how we currently prescribe and use antibiotics.
  • More than 100 key leaders from public and private human and animal health organizations will be in attendance.
  • Organizations are making specific commitments to save antibiotics and prevent a future where simple infections kill because we have no way to treat them.

>> Learn More about the Stewardship Forum

Become a Steward for Proper Antibiotic Use Today

CDC's Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative will respond to resistance, as well as support antibiotic stewardship [397 kb]. Join CDC and:

  • Take antibiotics exactly as your doctor prescribes. Never skip doses or stop taking an antibiotic early unless your doctor tells you to do so.
  • Only take antibiotics prescribed for you; do not share or use leftover antibiotics. Antibiotics treat specific types of infections. Taking the wrong medicine may delay correct treatment and allow bacteria to multiply.
  • Do not save antibiotics for the next illness. Discard any leftover medication once the prescribed course of treatment is completed.
  • Prevent infections by practicing good hand hygiene and getting recommended vaccines.
  • Remember antibiotics have side effects. When your doctors says you do not need an antibiotic, taking one may do more harm than good.

Remember: If we use antibiotics when they are not necessary, we may not have them when they are needed the most. Be a steward for proper antibiotic use in your doctor’s appointments, in your family, and in your community.

More Information

More Information

Visit these resources to learn more information about antibiotics, antibiotic stewardship, and antibiotic resistance:

 

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