LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - For the past 70 years, antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, have successfully treated patients with infections.
Over time, many infectious organisms have adapted to the drugs that kill them, making the medications less effective. Overusing or misusing these drugs can make resistance develop even faster.
Each year in the U.S. at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 23,000 people die annually as a direct result of these infections.
Dr. Tim Haman, an infectious disease specialist with CHRISTUS Oschner Lake Area Hospital said the focus used to be to “make better antibiotics.”
“But each time we do that the bacteria adapt so it’s kind of an endless cycle," Haman said. "So one of the biggest things we’ve been trying to do in recent times as physicians is to reduce antibiotic use.”
Haman said while drug resistant bacteria is on the rise across the globe, here in the Lake Area it isn’t as big an issue.
“I think it is probably a credit to our local primary care physicians who are not using unnecessary antibiotics," Haman said. "My focus, especially in the hospital, I work with our pharmacy every day to review the antibiotics that our patients are on and stopping any antibiotics or cutting back to narrower spectrum antibiotics if that’s at all possible. That’s a big focus nationwide and one of the things that I think we’re kind of at the forefront of here in Lake Charles.”
Haman said the reduction in the prescription of antibiotics has been the main reason.
“Things we’ve been trying to do in recent times as physicians is to reduce antibiotic use and reduce both unnecessary antibiotic use and unnecessary broad spectrum antibiotic use because that’s where we run into a lot of problems is some of our newer antibiotics will kill pretty much anything and so we select out those few resistant bacteria and so that just creates more and more problems,” Haman said.
Dr. Haman said while in the U.S. you need a prescription for antibiotics, in some countries you do not, meaning some antibiotic resistant bacteria develop in areas and when people travel to those parts of the world they can bring those bacteria back to the U.S.
“There was a case a few years ago of a patient who had been in India, she came back, was in Las Vegas, and she had a simple urinary tract infection,” Haman said. “But it was with a bacteria that was resistant to every antibiotic there was and she died because there was literally nothing that could treat her.”
He said knowing when to you need antibiotics and when you don’t is crucial. For example, he said going to your primary care doctor for a common cold. Antibiotics are not necessary because they can’t treat a viral infection.
“A lot of that unnecessary antibiotic use is what’s tied to the development of antibiotic resistance,” Haman said. “The more we can reserve antibiotics for when they’re only truly needed the more we will see the antibiotic resistance decrease.”
Haman recommends talking to your doctor.
“If they say you don’t need antibiotics, you probably don’t need antibiotics,” Haman said. He also recommends if you are prescribed antibiotics, take the full course.
“If you are prescribed a ten day course, or a seven day course, make sure you take it all,” Haman said. “That could be another issue. You could kill 99% that are immediately affected but there may be that one percentage that hangs around and if you don’t finish your course you run the risk of that strain surviving, multiplying, and then all of a sudden, you’re en-colonized with a drug resistant bacteria.”