The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is stepping up efforts to get hospitals and doctors to create better systems to reduce antibiotic resistance caused by overprescribing, a top CDC researcher said Tuesday.

A recent study showed that about 30 percent of U.S. outpatient antibiotic prescriptions were inappropriate. The research stated that about 44 percent of antibiotic prescriptions were written for acute respiratory conditions like sinus infections, middle ear infections, pharyngitis, asthma and colds – and half of those may have been unnecessary since many of the infections were viral. In the U.S., antibiotic-resistant infections are associated with 23,000 deaths, according to the CDC. Inappropriate prescription of antibiotics is a primary reason for the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

Katherine Fleming-Dutra, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s Office of Antibiotic Stewardship, led the study in collaboration with the Pew Charitable Trusts. It was published in May in “The Journal of the American Medical Association.”

“Our goal is that every patient gets … the antibiotics only when needed, and when needed, that they get the right antibiotic at the right dose and for the right duration,” said Fleming-Dutra. “In order to accomplish that goal, we would like to see every provider and health care facility incorporate antibiotic stewardship.”

In May, a study conducted by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research found a bacteria carrying the mcr-1 gene in a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman. The gene makes bacteria resistant to colistin, which is used as a last-resort drug to treat patients with infections caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria. It was the first U.S. report of a patient with an infection resistant to a last-resort antibiotic.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a proposal on June 16 that would update the requirements for hospitals to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Under the proposed standards, hospitals would be required to develop antibiotic stewardship programs, designed to ensure the responsible use of antibiotics and minimize the harmful effects of overuse.

It would be the first time that antibiotic stewardship was been mandated on such a large scale in the U.S. – a major milestone in improving antibiotic use in human health care and protecting both individual and public health, said Dr. Kathy Talkington, director of Pew’s antibiotic resistant project.

“The recent discovery of mcr-1 in the U.S., and the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, underscore the urgent need for action – both in better conserving the antibiotics we have and finding new types of antibiotics that can kill these increasingly resistant bacteria,” said Talkington.

In March 2015, the White House rolled out the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, establishing a goal of reducing inappropriate outpatient antibiotic use by 50 percent and 20 percent in inpatient settings by 2020 compared to the level in 2011.

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