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Daily Dose

Antibiotic overuse causing drug-resistant infections

As public health officials rolled out their annual awareness campaign about antibiotic overuse last week, they announced some scary news along with a little optimism.

First, the good news: The rate of antibiotic prescriptions has dropped by about 17 percent nationwide in recent years. In 2010, doctors wrote antibiotic prescriptions for 80 out of every 100 Americans compared with 96 out of 100 a decade earlier.

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(Massachusetts falls right near the national average, whereas Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine all have rates that are significantly lower, according to a new state data map.)

Unfortunately, we’re still not doing enough to ensure that we’ve got a strong arsenal of drugs to fight life-threatening infections in the future.

Urinary tract infections — the second most common type of infection, which half of women will have at some point during their lifetime — are becoming less treatable with antibiotic pills including cephalosporins, and the percentage of antibiotic-resistant infections has risen by over 30 percent from 1999 to 2010.

“On a weekly basis, we see a few women admitted to the hospital from our emergency room with a drug-resistant urinary tract infection, where in the past we would have been able to give them oral antibiotics and sent them home,” said Dr. Sara Cosgrove of Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital.

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