We live in times of antimicrobial resistance

Nov. 18, 2022

Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency with antimicrobial-resistant infections causing nearly 5 million deaths in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Vanderbilt Antimicrobial Stewardship Program (VASP) provides oversight of antimicrobial therapies for both inpatient and outpatient populations.

Antibiotic resistance worsened during the pandemic, said Ritu Banerjee MD, PhD, professor of Pediatric Infectious Disease and director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

This raised additional concerns about the overuse of antimicrobial agents. Recent CDC data shows that 47 million antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary.

“Overuse and misuse of antibiotics is rapidly contributing to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria,” said Banerjee. “It’s vital that we emphasize the importance of using antibiotics judiciously. Use antibiotics when they are needed to treat bacterial infections and don’t use them to treat viral infections, for which they are ineffective,” said Banerjee.

“We are living through the COVID-19 pandemic and are currently also in the middle of a surge of respiratory viruses circulating in our community, and these should not be treated with antibiotics.”

Banerjee said it’s all about evidence-based medicine — using the right drug for the right infection at the right time and for the right duration. VASP tries to share the message of correct dosing, appropriate use of antimicrobials and diagnostic testing throughout the Medical Center and clinics.

VASP is made up of physicians and pharmacists within the Division of Infectious Diseases, Infection Control and Prevention, Clinical Microbiology and the Department of Pharmacy who are working to improve patient outcomes, reduce antibiotic resistance and reduce health care costs.

Associate hospital epidemiologist George Nelson, MD, associate professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases and director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said the scope of improving antimicrobial use presents unique challenges.

“Antibiotics are administered and prescribed in nearly all specialties and every health care setting, from inpatient to outpatient and everywhere in between,” he said. “We have made important advances in many areas, but it still requires everyone’s effort across the health care landscape to improve use.”

Beginning Nov. 18, VASP will join the global recognition of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week to help improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance and encourage best practices among the public, health care providers and policymakers.

Throughout the week the group will raise awareness about the problems of antimicrobial resistance through newsletters, posters, podcasts and educational activities for residents and patients.

“Almost every patient and provider has taken or prescribed antibiotics or known someone who has,” Nelson added. “Antibiotics are lifesaving drugs but carry with them risk when not used optimally, which promotes antimicrobial resistance, an increasing and complex health threat.

“It is everyone’s responsibility to advocate for appropriate antibiotic use. It leads to better patient outcomes, more effective care, and prevents harm to individual patients and the population at large.”

VUMC release