Acording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed in America are unnecessary. The figure is based on a study that analyzed the use of antibiotics in emergency departments and doctors’ offices. The majority of prescriptions are aimed at treating respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis, viral sore throats and common colds. These conditions are typically resistant to antibiotics. To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by the University of San Francisco‚Äôs Online Master of Science in Nursing program.

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Excess prescriptions place the lives of patients at considerable risk for allergic reactions. In 2015, the White House introduced an action plan designed to reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics by at least 50 percent by 2020. Experts believe that setting achievable targets to lower the excess use of antibiotics is a crucial step towards protecting patients.

The efforts should be spread across the entire health continuum to ensure that medical practitioners only prescribe the drugs correctly. Duration, dose and the type of antibiotic are crucial aspects in enhancing proper usage. It is recommended that healthcare providers should evaluate prescribing patterns and implement remedial actions, including delayed prescribing and watchful waiting.

Additional measures include the provision of clinical decision support, communications training as well as patient and staff education. Patients can provide feedback to practitioners with the aim to curb unnecessary use.

In 2016, the United States Congress approved new funding worth millions for the CDC to implement measures aimed at combating antibiotic resistance. The CDC is using the funds to accelerate outbreak detection, improve prescription tracking and support research work to address knowledge gaps.

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs

The CDC reported that up to two million people are infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Around 20,000 of these patients succumb to the infections. Direct healthcare costs associated with such illnesses are estimated to reach 20 billion every year.

More than 30 percent of gonorrhea and strep pneumonia infections are resistant all antibiotics and multiple drugs, respectively. Some examples of antibiotic-resistant bacteria include enterobacteriaceae, enterococcus and acinetobacter.

On the other hand, the total number of antibiotics approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have decreased considerably over the years. As a result, the pharmaceutical companies have stopped producing these drugs.

Pfizer reportedly shut down its antibiotic research projects in 2011. The majority of new antibiotics in development are highly unlikely to receive FDA approval. The research projects are now mainly conducted by smaller biotech companies. They account for up to 80 percent of antibiotic development.

There are a number of effective ways to combat the risks posed by superbugs. These include hand-washing in healthcare facilities and reversing unnecessary antibiotic prescribing. On another level, animal feeds account for a significant proportion of antibiotics used around the world. They also contribute to resistance.

Part of the challenge is that bacteria adapts to new drugs, thus leading to an endless cycle of life and death. Another issue lies with the need for pharmaceuticals to boost profits because antibiotics are taken for short periods. Conversely, medications for conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol are taken daily. This helps reduce the cost because pharmaceuticals make profits over long periods.

Combating superbugs

When it comes to typhoid fever, medical practitioners still prefer immunization. The disease affects up to 21.5 million people in third world countries and its effects spread beyond these nations due to increased global travel. In America alone, more than 5,000 cases are recorded each year due to the consumption of contaminated food while abroad.

The disease is caused by Salmonella typhi, which can be treated using a wide variety of antibiotics. However, resistance is on the rise, thus complicating efforts to combat the problem in regions, such as Asia. Multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is known to cause a variety of symptoms, including abscesses, arthritis, boils and blood poisoning. This form of bacteria is an area of concern for healthcare facilities and medical practitioners.

It is part of a group of notorious superbugs known as ESKAPE. The pathogens have the capacity to trigger a number of symptoms, such as diarrhea, meningitis, pneumonia, septicemia and urinary-tract infections. The World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned that if the problem is not tackled. The resistance may mean that patients on a routine hospital visit could easily contract a serious condition.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae

The bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae is another culprit that started showing signs of resistance in the 1930s. The resistance has not be broken through the development of new drugs. Instead, the bacteria resists some of the commonly used antibiotics like tetracycline and penicillin.

Cephalosporins are the only class of drugs capable of fighting Neisseria gonorrhoeae. But, resistance has been reported in 10 countries and it is feared that the trend may spread around the world. If this happens, gonorrhea may become untreatable, thus leading to an epidemic throughout a promiscuous population. Experts estimate that there are more than 88 million cases of gonorrhea infections globally.

Influenza virus

Influenza virus types A and B commonly affect people around the world during the winter months. They are associated with a variety of symptoms, including headaches, muscular pain and fever. According to WHO, between 3 and 5 million cases result in severe illness and up to 500,000 deaths are recorded annually.

The infection is mainly treated using antiviral drugs like oseltamivir and zanamivir. Some of the drugs that were previously used to fight influenza have since been rendered ineffective owing to resistance. These include preventative antivirals, amantadine and rimantadine. As a result, the use of these medications is no longer recommended.

The influenza virus is constantly evolving, hence the capacity to become resistant to drugs over time. Viruses that are resistant to amantadine appeared in 2003 while oseltamivir resistant viruses emerged in 2007. Although resistant forms may continue spreading, the majority of viruses found around the world are still sensitive to key medications.

Experts have hinted that a global health crisis could certainly unfold due to the increase in the number of drug resistant diseases. Some diseases, like tuberculosis, gonorrhea and malaria are showing high levels of resistance against a surprisingly big arsenal of pharmaceuticals.