Antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic resistance are hot topics these days. Most people don’t know exactly what these terms mean and how they relate to sepsis.
Antimicrobial resistance or antibiotic resistance happens when germs develop the capability to defeat drugs that have been designed to kill them. When this happens, germs continue to grow. Antibiotic resistance does not mean the body is becoming resistant to antibiotics; it is that bacteria have become resistant to the antibiotic designed to kill them. Each year in the U.S., at least 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 people will die as a result.
Antibiotics are important medications and are critical to the treatment of sepsis. Every hour that treatment is delayed for sepsis patients results in an increase in mortality. While it is imperative to preserve antibiotics for infections that really need them, it is also crucial to prescribe antibiotics in a timely manner to patients with sepsis. Also important is prescribing antibiotics that can kill the exact? bacteria causing sepsis. When the bacteria have become resistant to multiple antibiotics getting the decision right on which antibiotic to use is more difficult.
Education of the general public is crucial to the battle to protect the efficacy of antibiotics and to ensure a patient receives them when needed. We need to do a better job of preventing infection through hand washing and vaccination. When a bacterial infection occurs, we need antibiotics to fight the germ–so it’s important to preserve antibiotics for illnesses that need them. There are many infections, especially viral infections, that do not need antibiotics. If you take an antibiotic when you have a viral infection the antibiotic attacks bacteria in your body-bacteria that are beneficial. However, failure to prescribe an antibiotic for a serious infection can sometimes lead to death.
With an increase in the number of germs that are resistant to antibiotics we run the risk of running out of antibiotics unless we can be more responsible with their use. Remember to always ask, “could this be sepsis?” If a medical professional rules that you should not receive an antibiotic for an infection ask why. Always ask–”could this be sepsis?”