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Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Continues to Rise, Is Clinical Surveillance the Answer to Keeping Patients Safe?

October 24, 2013


There have been several recent studies of late about the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, especially in hospitals and other highly trafficked public places. A recent study, “Antibiotic Resistance 2013: A Global Market Study,” conducted by Biopharm Reports aimed to assess the current and developing methods of combating bacteria-borne illnesses. The study found that just “ten antibiotic classes are being used to treat 86 percent of all infections, while only five classes are being used to treat 60 percent of infections.” (1) This method of treating bacterial infections has bolstered antibiotic resistance by accelerating the emergence of resistant phenotypes, which can’t be killed with the antibiotics currently available. (1)

How did this become such an epidemic? Other than the fact we’re using the same drugs over and over again to treat infections, we’ve also been taking them too much as a population for the past 70 years. According to a PBS “Frontline” report that aired Oct. 22, “…a lot of estimates suggest that at least half of the antibiotics that we give to humans are wrongly prescribed or the doses are wrong…We need some better stewardship. We ought to take care of these medicines, rather than use them recklessly.”(2)

In many cases, such as viral infections, antibiotics won’t actually treat the condition, but people take them anyway. The Frontline report continued to warn about the dangers of antibiotic overuse and misuse.  Alexander Fleming, who first came up with penicillin, warned us in his Nobel Prize speech in 1945 against overuse. And today, we’re starting to see his words come to fruition. Last week, there was another study that found a large number of people went to doctors in emergency rooms for sore throats, and of the whole group, about 10 percent of them had a legitimate need for an antibiotic, and about 50 percent of them were prescribed antibiotics. (2)

Adding fuel to this fire is the fact that drug companies do not have financial incentives to produce new antibiotics. They have to spend sometimes upward of a billion dollars to develop a new antibiotic, and the return on this investment is not as profitable as other medications; patients only take antibiotics for a short time, as opposed to other drugs which are taken without a determined end point at the time of prescription. (2) New antibiotics are slow to get market approval as well. According to the Biopharm Report, “the approval of new antibiotics in the US fell by 60 percent from 30 in the decade between 1983 to 1992, to just over 12 over the period [from] 1998 to 2009.” (1)

PBS Frontline

Implementing Antimicrobial Stewardship programs in the hospital setting can closely monitor infections and provide clinical surveillance of patients  to reduce the number of Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) that not only affect individual patients, but the patient population. Alere Analytics’ real-time clinical surveillance provides antimicrobial stewardship to give providers the tools they need to manage infections at the point-of-care, before the bacteria can spread to additional patients. Our platform can provide stewardship management support by assisting in various areas, such as antibiotic de-escalation, surveillance, automated antibiograms, and others. For an in-depth look at this growing world-wide issue, read Alere Analytics’ white paper, “Antimicrobial Stewardship, Empowering Providers to Reduce Risk of HAIs.” 

Alere’s Test Target Treat initiative is also empowering healthcare professionals to make more targeted treatment decisions sooner by the use of rapid diagnostics – reducing inappropriate antimicrobial use and the spread of resistance. Alere’s best-in-class rapid diagnostics enable healthcare practitioners to distinguish between respiratory tract infections that require treatment and those that are self-limiting, as well as several other diagnostic tools that can help clinicians identify pathogens at the point-of-care and define an appropriate treatment strategy earlier. For more information visit:

The fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria isn’t likely to end soon, but with the right clinical surveillance tools, hospitals and providers can protect their patient populations by identifying those at risk of new infections, take appropriate action in real-time, and prevent adverse events and readmissions. For more information about Alere Analytics’ Clinical Surveillance and Antimicrobial Stewardship Solutions, please visit our website.

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