Antibiotics Misuse

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August 23, 2005
From Health Team 12, concern that antibiotics are being misused has become a massive problem. In fact, they can be harmful in the long run if they are used inappropriately. News 12 is on your side with what you should know when you visit the doctor and why asking for an antibiotic may not be the wise choice.

Antibiotics are what you need to fight bacterial infections like strep throat. However, MCG Medical Director of Pediatric Emergency Dr. James Wilde says using them inappropriately can harm you.

“In this country 50% of the people who walk about of the doctor’s office with a diagnosis of cold are given antibiotics, zero of those people need antibiotics,” Wilde said.

Unlike bacterial infections like staph, antibiotics can’t fight viral infections, which means taking them when you don’t need them could hurt you in the long run.

“If you keep on using antibiotics when they are not necessary you are promoting the growth of resistant bacteria in that person,” Wilde said.

If you develop an infection causde by antibiotic resistant bacteria, when you really need an antibiotic it may not help.

“You overuse the antibiotic, the antibiotic becomes useless,” Wilde said.

But that’s only part of the problem. Almost half of the antibiotics produced in this country are for farmers.

“These are farmers who are going to major pharmaceuticals who say I want to buy six tons of antibiotic ‘x’ to make my chickens grow bigger,” Wilde said.

Farmers are adding antibiotics to the feed of chicken and cows promoting the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which can then spread through the community.

“Those resistant organisms can then spread to other animals and to humans and if the humans get that resistant organism then that resistant organism may not be treatable by conventional antibiotics or antibiotics at all,” Wilde said.

But farmers are reluctant to give up the antibiotics in the feed. Promoting growth of their livestock increases the farmer’s bottom line.

“It appears that the use of antibiotics in animal feed is an example of inappropriate use of antibiotics that will speed up the day when we will not be able to use antibiotics anymore,” Wilde said.

A large effort is underway by the Centers for Disease Control to promote using antibiotics wisely. Click here for more on Guarding Against Resistance.