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CDC Acts to Decrease Public's Demand for Antibiotics

Cheryl A. Thompson

Federal health officials today launched a campaign to recruit the American public in fighting the development of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.

"Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work," unveiled this morning at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago, aims to educate healthy adults and the parents of young children in the appropriate ways to use antimicrobials.

The campaign explains why antimicrobial-resistant bacteria are dangerous—they can cause significant danger and suffering for children and adults who have common bacterial infections once easily treatable—and how the public can prevent antimicrobial-resistant infections.

Specifically, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants the public to use antimicrobials only "when they are likely to be beneficial." An antimicrobial that is effective at treating a bacterial infection, for example, will be useless at treating a cold or cough.

To prevent antimicrobial-resistant infections, the CDC asks the public to:

  • Talk with their or their child's health care provider about antimicrobial resistance,
  • Ask whether a bacteria-fighting agent is likely to be beneficial for the current illness,
  • Ask what else they can do to feel better sooner,
  • Not take an antibacterial for a viral infection like a cold or influenza,
  • Not save some of their antimicrobial for the next time they get sick,
  • Take the medication exactly as the prescriber instructed, and
  • Not take medication that was prescribed for someone else.

CDC's public education campaign continues the agency's overall effort to reduce antimicrobial resistance by promoting appropriate use of the agents.

In mid-2002, CDC started a campaign in which simply worded instructions on preventing antimicrobial resistance were directed at clinicians treating hospitalized adults. This effort expanded later in the year to clinicians caring for dialysis patients and is expected eventually to include clinicians who care for pediatric, critical care, obstetric, long-term-care, and emergency room patients.

CDC personnel helped develop several clinical practice guidelines on appropriate or judicious use of antimicrobials in adults and children with certain infections. Educational tools for distribution to the public are available from the CDC Web site.