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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Is the prevalence of antibiotics in modern medicine leading to a global problem with antibiotic-resistant bacteria?

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed as the first line of defense for infections. But the critical question is, is the infection viral or bacterial? Antibiotics only fight bacterial infections, not viral infections like the common cold, the flu, chickenpox and mononucleosis. Trying to fight a virus with an antibiotic is not only futile, it may lead to antibiotic resistance in the future. Therefore, it is important to classify the infection properly before taking antibiotics.

Bacteria are becoming antibiotic-resistant

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overuse of antibiotics is the leading cause of antibiotic-resistant bacteria across the globe. This has created an influx in number of people getting infected and even dying from infections. In fact, the CDC reports that at least 2 million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the U.S. each year, and at least 23,000 people die as a result of these infections.

John Foote, M.D., a primary care physician at Piedmont, says everyone can play a role in reducing the unnecessary use of antibiotics.

“It is important that patients are educated on the signs and symptoms of viral versus bacterial infections. Bacterial infections typically take a few days to form, so when you come down with symptoms, don’t head to your doctor on day one and ask for a quick fix or to start antibiotics to ‘get ahead of the game.’”

He warns against taking antibiotics prematurely and says they will be ineffective, will not prevent a bacterial infection from forming, and most importantly, this may contribute to the worldwide problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Identifying a bacterial infection

Symptoms of bacterial and viral infections can be similar, making it difficult to correctly identify the type of infection. In some cases, a virus can lead to a bacterial infection. For example, someone infected with the cold virus can develop a sinus infection, which is bacterial, as a result of their symptoms.

Dr. Foote recommends waiting approximately one week if symptoms are more viral in nature before heading to the doctor – or sooner if symptoms worsen.

As a family practitioner, some of the more common bacterial infections Dr. Foote treats include:

  • Sinus infections, which can be accompanied by a fever and thick, yellow nasal discharge.
  • Ear infections, which are often accompanied by a fever.
  • Strep throat. Common among children and teens, strep throat symptoms include a swollen, red

Testing for a bacterial infection

A blood test is also a great bacterial diagnostic tool. When a patient’s white blood cell count is high, this is often an indicator of a bacterial infection. A normal or even low white blood cell count usually means a viral infection. A swab test of the back of the throat is often used to check for strep throat.

National initiative to raise awareness

The CDC reports that up to 50 percent of all antibiotics prescribed are not necessary or effective. In 2014, a national government-led initiative launched to help raise awareness about the impact of over-using antibiotics.

“The biggest fear is that one day there will be a bacteria we can no longer fight with antibiotics. We are getting closer to that reality, so I encourage patients to think twice before prematurely taking antibiotics,” advises Dr. Foote.

Dr. Foote practices at Piedmont Physician Group Towne Lake, located at 970 Woodstock Parkway, Suite 100, Woodstock, GA 30188. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Foote or one of our other primary care providers. Save time, book online.

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