Many participants wrongly believed that individuals build up tolerance to antibiotics, when it is the bacteria themselves that become resistant.
"They put it on the person rather than on the bacterium," said Jay Campbell, vice president of Hart Research Associates, which conducted the research. "It's not entirely clear to people that there's a huge community impact."
Eighty-six percent of Americans know that the full prescribed course of antibiotics should be finished even when symptoms have vanished, but many said they did not actually abide by this rule.
One expert said the news is not all bad, however.
"There is also good news," said Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy. The data indicates that antibiotic prescribing across the United States has dropped by 17 percent since 1999, even if the reductions have not been uniform. States like Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and West Virginia have had the most modest declines or slight increases in antibiotic prescribing while states like Alaska, Hawaii and California have had significant declines in prescribing, Laxminarayan noted.
Still, there are clear strategies to help outwit the problem of resistance.
"The bad news is that antibiotic-resistant infections are increasing at an alarming rate and we are running out of treatment options for many infections," said Hicks. "The good news is that there are action steps that each one of us can take to stop spread of resistant infections."
First and foremost, consumers and doctors need to understand that antibiotics should only be used when they are really needed, she said.
When they are prescribed, people should use them responsibly, taking them exactly as directed, practicing good hygiene (especially frequent and thorough hand washing) and getting recommended vaccines, Hicks added.
This is especially important in light of the fact that few new
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