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Study explores antibiotic misuse

If a runny nose and congested chest have you thinking of antibiotics, think again.

"For uncomplicated colds, zero are necessary; bronchitis, less than 10 percent are necessary; sore throats, maybe up to 10 to 15 percent of these patients need an antibiotic," says Dr. Jim Wilde, pediatric emergency medicine and infectious disease physician at the Medical College of Georgia.

"Ninety to 95 percent of all infections are viral or low-acuity bacterial infections such as ear infections or sinus infections," says Dr. Wilde. Yet studies show that more than half of patients in the United States are taking bacteria-destroying antibiotics for colds, flu and bronchitis, all caused by viruses, says Dr. Wilde.

The worrisome balance sheet has Dr. Wilde, a self-professed foe of antibiotic misuse, regularly lecturing to health care providers, residents and students about proper use of antibiotics.

Now he's also a principal investigator on a National Institutes of Health-funded study seeking to educate providers as well as patients on the hazards of antibiotic misuse.

The net effect is we are losing the war, says Dr. Wilde, with the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria running ahead of production of new antibiotics to fight them. "If you look at the history of antibiotic use in the last 60 years and you look at the history of resistance in the last 60 years, one is about two years behind the other. As soon as a new antibiotic is introduced, bugs develop resistance to it. If it had not been for the fact that we have been developing more antibiotics in the last 50 years, we would be in big trouble right now. Even if you use antibiotics appropriately, bugs will still find a way to get around them, but we can delay the spread of resistance so we have more time to develop new antibiotics."

Dr. Wilde believes that without big change, antibiotics needed to treat life-threatening conditions such as meningitis and pneumon
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
29-Dec-2004


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