Great power, great responsibility

Drug-resistant bacteria prompt call for responsible antibiotic use

New AOA policy outlines how DOs can help stem what one expert calls ‘one of the world’s most pressing health concerns.’


Becoming infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria may sound like the stuff of hair-raising science fiction, but the phenomenon is all too real. In the U.S., drug-resistant bacteria infect 2 million people each year, killing 23,000.

Such bacteria are a major concern worldwide as well. There were 480,000 new cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in 2013, and 100 countries have reported extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, according to the World Health Organization.

On Saturday, the AOA House of Delegates approved a resolution urging DOs to practice responsible antibiotic stewardship as outlined in the national strategy for combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Lauri Hicks, DO, medical director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s antibiotic use program and a member of the AOA Bureau on Scientific Affairs and Public Health, authored the resolution and says drug resistance is an urgent global health concern. “If the problem continues to grow, more people will experience situations where antibiotics don’t work for common infections,” she explains. That can lead to:

  • intravenous antibiotics and hospitalization
  • delayed use of effective treatment due to treatment failures
  • increased morbidity and mortality from antibiotic-resistant infections
  • significant financial burdens on patients and health care systems

Best practices

Although patients may pressure physicians to prescribe antibiotics to treat an illness, Dr. Hicks says, most people are simply looking for reassurance and recommendations for alleviating symptoms and feeling better. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers antibiotic guidance for specific illnesses. For mild cases of otitis media or uncomplicated cases of bacterial sinusitis, for example, the recommendation is watchful waiting.

Whatever the patient’s diagnosis, Dr. Hicks says DOs are on the front lines of fighting antibiotic resistance: “We must use antibiotics in a way that preserves their effectiveness, or else we’ll jeopardize the many medical advances that have been made.”

Leave a comment Please see our comment policy