Antibiotic resistance plagues public health

Gov. Mark Dayton announced a weeklong event to address the issue of antibiotic resistance.

Bessma Dabaan

Substantial use of antibiotics has caused an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, impacting health care providers’ ability to fight infectious diseases.

Government officials are trying to teach the general public more about the issue in order to ensure the medicine is used appropriately.

In an effort to address antibiotic overuse across the globe, Gov. Mark Dayton announced last week as “Get Smart — Know When Antibiotics Work Week.”

The weeklong event included a Twitter chat and a film screening at the University of Minnesota, though officials aren’t sure if it will be a recurring affair.

The Minnesota Department of Health worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to put together last week’s events, CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer Sara Tomczyk said.

“We want more people to know about this concern because our aim is to move forward in preventing the spread of these bugs,” she said.

Over-prescription and misuse of antibiotic drugs has led to an increase in resistant bacteria, Tomczyk said.

“If people don’t act on this problem, the future generations will not be able to use these vital antibiotics like we do now,” University microbiology junior and Undergraduate Public Health Association executive board member
Ainslee Neu said.

The problem extends to animals, too, though veterinary medicine students are increasingly taught to take caution when prescribing antibiotics, Veterinary Public Health Hospital epidemiology professor Jeff Bender said.

“This concern not only affects humans, but also animals around the world,” he said.

Public health organizations urge patients to refrain from asking their physicians for antibiotics, Tomczyk said. If they’re not prescribed initially, she said, they won’t heal an ailment.

“I think what people don’t know is that it’s not safe to take leftover antibiotics or to share your medications with anyone,” she said. “And it’s really important to take these antibiotics exactly as your health care provider prescribes them to you.”

Mutations in bacteria could lead to ineffective antibiotics, Neu said. Still, Tomczyk said students can help.

 “Students should have a role in leading this issue because they are the next generation. Without antibiotics, it’ll be hard for them to succeed in the future,” she said.