UK HealthCare

Do Your Part in Not Overusing Antibiotics

By Thein Myint, infectious diseases physician at UK HealthCare

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 8, 2016) — Antibiotics have been used for the past 80 years to treat patients and have greatly reduced illness and death from infectious diseases. However, these same drugs have been used so extensively and for so long that the organisms they are designed to kill have adapted to them, making the drugs less effective over time.

Bacteria can spread from person to person. Although some of these bacteria don’t cause any problems, if you become infected with certain harmful bacteria, you may become sick. If those bacteria are resistant to antibiotics then your infection may be harder to treat because the antibiotics may simply not work.

This overuse and resistance to antibiotics is a growing problem throughout the world and in the U.S. In fact, a few weeks ago, a patient in Pennsylvania was determined to be infected with bacteria resistant to an antibiotic generally used as a drug of last resort called colistin. The patient recovered but the fear remains that if the resistance spreads to other bacteria, we could see “supergerms” resistant to all antibiotics.

Colistin is an old antibiotic many doctors stopped prescribing in the 1970s due its side effects and the availability of other antibiotics. However, it has been used more and more the past several years as other antibiotics have begun losing their effectiveness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), other countries have already seen multidrug-resistant superbugs that can’t be fought with any antibiotics including colistin.

Those at the greatest risk for antibiotic resistant bacteria are cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and others who are medically immunocompromised. However, overuse of antibiotics and its repercussions are issues everyone should take seriously and do their part to reduce.

The first step is to never take an antibiotic for a viral infection as they don’t cure viral infections such as:

o                Colds

o                Flu

o                Most sore throats

o                Most coughs and bronchitis (“chest colds”)

o                Many sinus infections

o                Many ear infections

Instead, wash your hands frequently and ask your health care professional about steps you can take to feel better and get relief from your symptoms without using antibiotics. If you are prescribed an antibiotic, be sure to ask if you really need it and if there are any alternatives.

If you need an antibiotic for an infectious disease such as strep throat, be sure to take it exactly as your health care professional tells you and safely discard any leftover medication.

Remember that while it may seem like taking an antibiotic wouldn’t be a bad thing, misuse can allow harmful bacteria to change and reproduce causing them to become resistant or immune to an antibiotic. When you use antibiotics appropriately, you are doing what is the best for your health, your family's health, and those around you.

This column originally appeared in the Sunday, June 26 edition of the Lexington Herald-Leader

Media Contact: Kristi Lopez,, (859)323-6363