Cara Bushmaker, MLS(ASCP)CM, B.S. Micr.
Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital
1200 Westwood Drive
Hamilton, MT 59840
Antibiotic Awareness Week
November 13-19, 2017 kicks off the U.S. Antibiotics Awareness Week. While
antibiotics are life-saving, they do come with risks. Bacterial resistance
to antibiotics is everywhere and the way we utilize antibiotics today
will affect patients and how we deliver healthcare in the future. Although
some people are at greater risk, no one can avoid the risk of antibiotic-resistant
infections. As we all were affected by last year’s devastating fire
season that swept across our state, in healthcare we have also been watching
antimicrobial resistance as it sweeps across the nation. Antibiotic resistance
and its consequences are here in our community with names like MRSA and
C diff, and we all have a part to play in protecting our antibiotic resources.
An antibiotic is a type of drug that kills or stops the growth of bacteria.
Antibiotics are not effective against viruses such as the common cold
and influenza. How antibiotic resistance happens is illustrated below
in this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) graphic:
Antibiotic resistance is also worsened because of antibiotic prevalence.
Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used in healthcare
today. Our biggest weapon in fighting bacterial disease (antibiotics)
is also the biggest aide in perpetuating resistance. Each year in the
United States, at least 2 million people acquire serious infections with
bacteria that are resistant to one or more antibiotics. Of those 2 million
people, at least 23,000 people die from these complicated infections.
Those numbers may seem far-fetched here in our little corner of the Big
Sky state, but we are seeing these resistant bacteria here at home as well.
MRSA or methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile
(C difficile or C diff) have become household names for many Montanans
and are currently among the top resistance threats in our state. MRSA
is a member of a group coined as “super bugs” due to their
impressive ability to survive and change in order to resist antibiotics.
Just two short years after the discovery of Methicillin in 1960, strains
of methicillin resistant Staph aureus began to emerge globally and are
now common in our own community today. C. difficile, is a common issue
resulting from antibiotic use. C. difficile is a diarrheal disease often
associated with long-term use of antibiotics in elderly patients or in
cases of inappropriate use of antibiotics. Misuse of antibiotics can include
taking other people’s prescriptions, not following your physician’s
instructions and overuse for non-bacterial infections. Antibiotics can
wipe out the normal “good” bacteria in our bodies for several
months putting us at increased risk for developing C. difficile. C. difficile
infections result in 14,000 deaths each year in the US.
Resistance is the threat, so what are we doing to stop this wildfire from
Every patient and every bacterium has the potential of being unique in
either its identification or its response to antibiotics. Because of this
variability, bacteria must be grown and tested against a panel of antibiotics
in order to find the best choice to treat infection. This is known as
susceptibility testing. The healthcare team works closely assessing each
patient and making the best decision for their circumstance. This timeframe
is closely monitored by pharmacists, physicians, nurses and the laboratory
to provide and execute the safest patient care possible.
The World Health Assembly in 2015 adopted a global action plan to address
the issue of antimicrobial resistance. The goal of this action plan is
to safeguard the use of antibiotics for prevention and treatment of infectious
diseases. Antimicrobial stewardship is the multidisciplinary approach
to the safe and responsible use of antibiotics, and hospitals around the
world, including Marcus Daly, are adopting practices to improve antibiotic
Healthcare is ever evolving and like our bacterial counterparts, we must
adapt in order to thrive. As we look at the upcoming cold and flu season,
please make a conscious effort to minimize infections and properly utilize
antibiotics as a patient or a healthcare team member. Together as a community,
we can all work to be good stewards of antibiotics and preserve this valuable
resource to make our community a healthier place.
This week’s community health column is brought to you by Marcus Daly
Memorial Hospital. For questions and or comments, please contact Cara
Bushmaker, MLS(ASCP)CM, B.S. Micr. at the Marcus Daly Laboratory Department at 1200 Westwood
Drive, Hamilton MT, 59840. Working together to build a healthier community!
"Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Resistance."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Feb. 2017. Web. 07 Nov. 2017.
"Public Health & Safety."
Dphhs.mt.gov. State Information Technology Services Division, n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2017.
"Antibiotic / Antimicrobial Resistance."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Sept. 2017. Web. 07 Nov. 2017.