What Can We Do to Stop the Spread of Drug-Resistant Infections

Nov. 15, 2018

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the old saying goes, and it applies to antibiotic resistance as well: it’s better to prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant strains than to have to quickly diagnose and treat patients with drug-resistant infections. This is where the parallel arms of infection control, diagnostics and antibiotic stewardship come into play.

Hospital and health care facilities implement infection control procedures to make the risk of hospital-acquired infection as low as possible. This includes practices such as decontaminating surfaces and quarantining at-risk patients. As the problem of drug resistance has spread, infection control practitioners have had to adapt new strategies: for example, hospital sinks were identified as a reservoir for bacteria and drug-resistant genes, so hospitals have had to replace plumbing as part of new procedures to control outbreaks. 
New ways to more quickly assess antibiotic susceptibility are constantly being developed for use in clinical microbiology labs. This includes both ways to better perform traditional minimal inhibitory concentration assays as well as new genetic platforms to exploit quickly-evolving sequencing technologies and directly detect drug-resistance genes. The efforts to move new susceptibility tests from basic research to applied diagnostics may seem overly complex, but the long process ensures accurate test outcomes no matter which lab site or technician runs the test.
Being good stewards of antibiotics is the most actionable step most of us can take in our daily lives. For health care workers, it means understanding the local antimicrobial resistance patterns by collecting, reporting and using the hospital antibiogram. For members of the community at large, a group that includes all of us, this means asking if your cold truly requires a prescription, and using drugs appropriately and as directed by a medical professional. When properly put in place, stewardship programs can decrease resistance in local bacterial populations.
This concludes our posts for World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2018. Don't miss our earlier posts, "How do antibiotics in agriculture affect human clinical infectious diseases?" and "What happens when antibiotics stop working?"
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Author: Julie Wolf

Julie Wolf
Dr. Julie Wolf is in science communications at Indie Bio, and was a former ASM employee. Follow Julie on Twitter for more ASM and microbiology highlights at @JulieMarieWolf.