SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The emergence of antibiotics in the 20th century revolutionized the way doctors treat certain infections. While this category of drugs helps slow and destroy the cause of those infections, it’s led to a problem of overuse.
Overuse leads to antibiotics resistance which is something the CDC warned about and advised through the years for us to take action. But as Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, according to a recent study not enough doctors and patients are listening.
“Bacteria is the only thing we can treat with antibiotics.” Yet according to Commonwealth Health Family Physician Daniel Shust, MD too many patients are taking antibiotics for all the wrong reasons. Backing up that claim is a recent study in the medical journal The BMJ. It shows nearly 25 percent of antibiotic prescriptions in the U.S. are not needed.
The problem, Dr. Shust says, is when antibiotics are used to treat viral and not bacterial infections often because the symptoms overlap. “I have a fever. I have the aches. Something hurts. I have an upset stomach. What can I do? What’s my quick fix for this?”
When that attempted “fix” for viral infections like colds, sore throats or the flu is used, Dr. Shust says it simply won’t work since antibiotics will not kill viruses. “Viral we need antivirals and we only have a few of those out there for example Tamiflu if you have diagnosed flu.”
What’s worse, according to Dr. Shust, is that antibiotics taken carelessly may cause more serious health problems than you bargained for. “We see constantly we have an outbreak of MRSA, an outbreak of some E coli. Well, as a population we’re creating those.”
That means when you do need an antibiotic for such bacterial infections like sinus and urinary tract infections, strep throat and some pneumonia a more powerful antibiotic is required. “If we’re being treated with more powerful antibiotics they do damage to us because they’re more toxic.”
The lesson for all of us? Use antibiotics only when a doctor prescribes them for you and take the full prescription even if you’re feeling better. Also, never share antibiotics or use leftover prescriptions. Remember that using antibiotics when they’re not needed reduces the effectiveness the next time they are necessary.