Antibiotic resistance continues to be a growing problem in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Roughly 2 million patients get an infection in a hospital, and about 90,000 of those patients die as a result of that infection.
Practices Leading to Antibiotic Resistance
Nursing organizations nationwide have expressed their opposition to non-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics by supporting the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (S. 619/H.R. 1549)
More than 70 percent of the bacteria that cause nosocomial infections are resistant to at least one antibiotic used to treat them. This leads to patients having longer hospital stays and requires treatment with second- or third-choice drugs that may be less effective and more expensive.
Widespread use of antibiotics increases the spread of antibiotic resistance. Until 2012, an estimated 80 percent of antibiotics and related drugs were routinely added to the feed of healthy livestock and healthy poultry to promote growth and compensate for unsanitary living conditions. Many antibiotic feed additives are identical or very nearly so to human medicines, including penicillin, tetracycline, erythromycin and sulfa drugs. A National Academy of Sciences report warned, "a decrease in antimicrobial use in human medicine alone will have little effect on the current situation. Substantial efforts must be made to decrease inappropriate overuse in animals and agriculture as well."
Nursing organizations nationwide have expressed their opposition to this practice by supporting the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (S. 619/H.R. 1549) also known as PAMTA.These include the American Nurses Association (ANA), American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and state nurses associations from Pennsylvania to California. The ANA has also adopted two resolutions calling for a phase-out in the non-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics.
In 2012 major steps were taken to reduce the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in agriculture. First, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed restrictions on the use of cephalosporins for "extralabel" or unapproved use in cattle, swine, chickens, and turkeys. Secondly, the FDA requested a three-year voluntary phase out of non-therapeutic antimicrobial use in agriculture, recommending veterinarian oversight in the use of antibiotics only to prevent, control, or treat disease in animal agriculture.
- Calling Nurses to Action: Preserving Antibiotics for Medical Treatment
This one page double-sided flyer is great to hand out at meetings, health fairs, and other events where nurse colleagues, hospital staff and/or the public gather. Download and make copies.
- Sample letter to your institution's food service director To protect antibiotics, many hospitals around the country are changing what meat and poultry they purchase. Download this letter and ask your hospital to do the same.
- The Union of Concerned Scientists has several resources and information on Wise Antibiotic Use.
- Visit Health Care Without Harm's Healthy Food in Health Care Tools and Resources for news, policy statements, and purchasing guides which protect antibiotics.
- Healthy Food in Health Care — American Nurses Association 2008 House of Delegates Resolution (pdf)
- Keeping Antibiotics Working, an article by Barbara Sattler, RN, originally published in The Maryland Nurse (pdf)