Antibiotic Resistance at 'Near Critical Situation'

Recently, Ryan Moenster, Pharm.D., BCPS-ID, associate professor of pharmacy practice talked to CNBC about the rise of drug-resistant bacteria.

Moenster told reporter Mark Koba "We can't just prescribe the stronger antibiotics without fear of overusing them."

There is a lot of attention on this area of health because both the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control have published warnings in the last several months about this issue. While the MERS virus is currently grabbing many headlines, Moenster, in his role as one of the few infectious disease pharmacists in the country, is focusing on bacteria because they respond to medication while most viruses do not.

“I would say this is a near critical situation, particularly for multi-drug resistant gram negative organisms,” he explains.

Bacteria are classified as gram positive or gram negative. There are many differences between the two types of organisms, but the name comes from how the bacteria respond to a lab test. Some gram-positive bacteria you may have heard of include MRSA and Streptococcus, which, among other things, may cause strep throat. Common gram-negative bacteria include Bordetella pertussis, which causes whooping cough, E.coli and Salmonella.

 “We have some new agents out for gram positives, but the pipeline to combat gram-negatives is really dry,” Moenster says. “I routinely see organisms that are susceptible to only  one antibiotic, and it is a very toxic, old medication.”

Moenster says the best course of action for patients, pharmacists and physicians is to use antibiotics appropriately.

“I’m all for using antibiotics when it’s the correct treatment, but you have to use them for the right amount of time and more importantly use the correct dosage,” he says. “Determining those medication treatments is something I’m involved with every day.”

He adds patients play a major role in the process and cautions against asking a physician or nurse practitioner for antibiotics when you have a virus.

“If you get antibiotics, take all of them,” Moenster advises. “We know that exposing these organisms to fewer doses over a shorter time period leads to resistance. Organisms are small but they are very smart. They learn over time.” 

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