Sometimes the littlest things can inspire big thoughts.
Take last week’s announcement that researchers at the University of British Columbia found a small molecule that could — repeat, could — play a significant role in the battle against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to a release from UBC, the molecule “prevents bacteria from forming into biofilms, a frequent cause of infections. The anti-biofilm peptide works on a range of bacteria including many that cannot be treated by antibiotics.”
“Currently there is a severe problem with antibiotic-resistant organisms,” stated Bob Hancock, a professor in UBC’s department of microbiology and immunology and lead author of the study that was published in PLOS Pathogens. “Our entire arsenal of antibiotics is gradually losing effectiveness.”
But, he added, “Our strategy represents a significant advance in the search for new agents that specifically target bacterial biofilms.”
The fact is we are losing the battle. According to the CDC, more than 2 million Americans annually get sick due to antibiotic resistance and at least 23,000 people die. In addition, 250,000 patients will acquire C. difficile infections; 14,000 will die.
In a report issued earlier this month, the World Health Organization declared that, “Antimicrobial resistance threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. An increasing number of governments around the world are devoting efforts to a problem so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine. A post-antibiotic era — in which common infections and minor injuries can kill — far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st Century.”
Some Hollywood screenwriter doesn’t make up this stuff. As the CDC’s Steve Solomon, M.D., told us last November, upwards of 50 percent of all antibiotic use is “either unnecessary or it’s prescribed in an inappropriate way.”
But rather than wait for super scientists to develop superdrugs to combat superbugs, hospitals and physicians would be well advised to implement thorough antibiotic stewardship programs. Doing so would go a long way toward addressing Solomon’s concerns of overprescribing or poorly prescribing these drugs. Besides, that pipeline for superdrugs is pretty small due to a variety of regulatory and economic issues (more on this in future blogs).
The CDC’s Core Elements of Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship Programs is an excellent reference for hospitals needing to refresh or launch a program. But even before delving into the guide, you might want to review this CDC checklist to assess gaps in your system. Likewise, the AHA’s Appropriate Use of Medical Resources guide discusses the importance of developing an antimicrobial stewardship program.
Has your hospital developed a stewardship program? If so, we’d like to hear about it. We plan to dig deeper into this topic in the coming months. Comment: Twitter