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Avoid Long-Term Consequences, Use Antibiotics Appropriately

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog
Dr. Martin Blaser
Dr. Martin Blaser

Author: Dr. Martin Blaser
Director of the Human Microbiome Program at NYU

All of us can recall situations in which we or a loved one have come down with an infection and required a trip to the doctor. Between the discomfort and the uncertainty of whether or not the infection will become worse, illness is unnerving and sometimes scary. In these moments, antibiotics have long been perceived as safe cure-alls among both patients and healthcare providers, terra firma in a storm of uncertainty. And they have done untold good. However, we are beginning to question the wisdom of using antibiotics for every infection that we have. As it turns out, fewer infections require an antibiotic than you might think, and the consequences of antibiotic use are not limited to short-term drug rashes and upset stomach.

“As it turns out, fewer infections require an antibiotic than you might think, and the consequences of antibiotic use are not limited to short-term drug rashes and upset stomach.”

When we think about the harms of antibiotic therapy, the long-term consequences of antibiotic exposure need to be a part of the equation. When you look closer at the bacteria that live in our body (called the ‘microbiome’), you will see that they play an intimate and crucial role in our growth, development and maintenance of health. Interruptions in this community of bacteria due to antibiotics can set off a chain reaction of events, which may result in disease. There is a growing body of research showing an association between early-life exposures to antibiotics and chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and obesity. (Indeed, it may be no coincidence that U.S. maps of obesity and per-capita antibiotic use have an uncanny resemblance.)

We should not understate the impact that antibiotics have had on our health and our entire world. However, it is important that we understand that there are real and measurable short- and long-term consequences to taking antibiotics. These should always be taken into consideration before antibiotics are used to treat an infection, and this is why it is so important to limit unnecessary antibiotic use. I invite you to join me in celebrating GetSmart About Antibiotics Week 2015 by promoting appropriate antibiotic use so that these miracle drugs remain effective and safe for many years to come.

Posted on by CDC's Safe Healthcare Blog

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