Valley View doctor to discuss dangers of antibiotic overuse
IF YOU GO
Valley View Hospital Doc Talk
Dr. Jaime Lowe
5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15
Valley View Hospital, second floor Conference Rooms C & D
RSVP: 970-384-6628 or Jenna.Weatherred@vvh.org
When was the last time you got an antibiotic prescription for a lingering cold? Have you ever been prescribed one to see if it cleared up a problem caused by an unidentified bug? Have your children taken antibiotics because of fluid in the ear just in case there was an underlying infection?
The widespread practice of using antibiotics as a presumptive treatment — without confirming the presence of bacteria with a culture — is one aspect of the growing problem of antibiotic overuse that Dr. Jamie Lowe will address Thursday in her Doc Talk at Valley View Hospital.
According to a study published this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “at least 30 percent of antibiotics prescribed in the United States are unnecessary.”
The study, which collected data from doctors’ offices and emergency departments across the United States, found that most of these unnecessary prescriptions are for respiratory conditions — including colds, sore throats, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections — that are caused by viruses and do not respond to antibiotics.
Lowe encountered the issue in her urology practice where she often treats recurrent urinary tract infections, many in patients who have been on multiple courses of antibiotics without a positive culture.
She said the idea behind presumptive treatment is that health-care providers should prescribe antibiotics “just in case” along with the belief that “it won’t hurt so we might as well try it.” But she and many other physicians and researchers are countering that dogma with facts about antibiotic resistance and the growing number of chronic diseases associated with antibiotic overuse.
The CDC is seeking to educate health-care providers and the public about the dangers of antibiotic overuse, and many hospitals, including Valley View, have antibiotic stewardship programs in place.
Lowe, who has done presentations on the growing problem to her medical colleagues, is passionate about taking the discussion to the broader community.
Antibiotics came into widespread use during World War II and were hailed as miracle drugs. The miracle went beyond curing infectious diseases in humans. In the 1950s, agribusiness discovered that adding antibiotics to feed fattened up livestock more quickly, reducing the time required to get animals to market. The practice also promoted the extreme crowding of animals that defines factory farming.
By going too far with a good thing, modern industrial society could be turning the miracle into a nightmare. Antibiotic overuse is creating resistance, and we may be speeding along the highway to pandemics of untreatable infectious diseases.
Lowe described another, lesser-known part of the overuse problem. Scientists are finding associations between high antibiotic use and chronic diseases including obesity, asthma, autism and multiple autoimmune disorders.
Statistical associations alone do not prove cause and effect, but scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder and other institutions are researching the effects of antibiotics and other exposures on the human microbiome, the 3-5 pounds of microbes we each have.
These “good bugs” live in our guts, on our skin, in our mouths — everywhere — and are essential to functions such as digestion, and play a key role in our immunity. Lowe explained that antibiotic overuse destroys these helpful microbes as well as the ones that make us sick.
“We lose our [biological] ecosystem diversity,” she said. That makes us less able to respond to infectious agents and contributes to the development of modern plagues.
The discovery and development of antibiotics was truly a breakthrough in human health. But getting the miracle back will require partnerships between researchers, health-care providers, and the rest of us.
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