Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria,such as those that cause strep throat, gonorrhea, and tuberculosis.
Well-known antibiotics include amoxicillin, cephalexin, azithromycin,
and levofloxacin. Antibiotics kill bacteria that once routinely caused fa-
In September 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Preven-
tal illnesses. Since the 1940s, antibiotic use has reduced death and dis-
tion released a report about antibiotic resistance. Overall, antibi-
ease related to infections around the world. However, some bacteria
otic resistance causes 2 million bacterial and fungal illnesses and
have become resistant to the antibiotics that were previously used to
23 000 deaths yearly. It also causes an annual increase in direct
health care costs of $20 billion plus $35 billion in lost productivity.
exposed to a drug that killed the bacteria in the past. As a result, differ-
Antibiotic resistance could have a serious effect on recent medi-
ent and stronger drugs are constantly needed to fight bacterial infec-
cal advances. Procedures like organ transplants or cancer treatments
tions. The November 27, 2013, issue of JAMA
includes an article about
are often associated with infections. As bacteria become more resis-
tant to antibiotics, these infections become more difficult to treat.
There are very few new antibacterial drugs ready for the mar-
ket. The best approach to decrease antibiotic resistance is to use an-
There are many reasons antibiotic use is so widespread. Antibiotics
tibiotics only when they are absolutely needed and to use them for
are relatively low cost; are easy to take as a pill, liquid, or injection;
and have been very effective in controlling diseases related to bac-teria such as pneumonia, ear infections, and skin infections.
Until recently, both doctors and patients underestimated the
• Be aware that sometimes antibiotics will not help you get better if
dangers of using too many antibiotics. Antibiotics result in compli-
your problem is caused by viruses or fungi.
cations such as rashes and other allergic complications. Using too
• Discuss your treatment with your doctor to feel comfortable about
many antibiotics can increase resistance to the drugs by the bacte-
his or her prescribing—or not prescribing—an antibiotic.
• If you are prescribed an antibiotic, make sure to take it until it is fin-
ished. Do not share it with anyone else or save it for a future illness.
• If you have leftover antibiotics, dispose of them safely. See the US
Reasons for increasing drug resistance in bacteria
Food and Drug Administration’s website at http://www.fda.gov
• Practice a healthy lifestyle to help stay well. Also, washing your
hands regularly is a good way to help protect against getting sick.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
• National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the PatientPage link on JAMA
’s website at jama.com
. Many are available inEnglish and Spanish.
Deborah Tolmach Sugerman, MSW
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA
. The information and
Archer GL, Polk RE. Treatment and prophylaxis of bacterial infections. In:
recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but theyare not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your
Longo DL, Fauci AS, Kasper DL, Hauser SL, Jameson JL, Loscalzo J, eds. Harrison’s
personal medical condition, JAMA
suggests that you consult your physician. This page
Principles of Internal Medicine
. 18th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2012:chap 133.
may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care
Conflict of Interest Disclosures:
The author has completed and submitted the
professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.
ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest and none werereported.
November 27, 2013 Volume 310, Number 20
Copyright 2013 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.
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