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Misinformation about antibiotics can travel to large audience via Twitter: study
Date:3/30/2010

Washington, March 30, 2010 Misunderstandings about proper use of antibiotics have the potential to spread widely through social networks such as Twitter, according to a report in the April issue of AJIC: American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. (APIC). Researchers from Columbia University and MixedInk (New York, NY) studied the health information content of Twitter updates mentioning antibiotics to determine how people are sharing information and assess the proliferation of misinformation. The investigation explored evidence of misunderstanding or misuse of antibiotics.

"Research focusing on microblogs and social networking services is still at an early stage," Daniel Scanfeld, MS, MA, and colleagues state in the article. "Further study is needed to assess how to promote healthy behaviors and to collect and disseminate trustworthy information using these tools." The authors stress that because health information is shared extensively on such networks, it is important for health care professionals to have a basic familiarity with social networking media services, such as Twitter. They add that such services can potentially be used to gather important real-time health data and may provide a venue to identify potential misuse or misunderstanding of antibiotics, promote positive behavior change, and disseminate valid information.

Using content analysis of 52,153 Twitter status updates ("tweets") mentioning antibiotics between March 13, 2009, and July 31, 2009, researchers categorized each tweet into one of 11 groups: general use, advice/information, side effects/negative reactions, diagnosis, resistance, misunderstanding and/or misuse, positive reactions, animals, wanting/needing, cost and other.

Once categories were established, 1,000 status updates were selected randomly from the complete list of 52,153 tweets and analyzed.
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Contact: Liz Garman
egarman@apic.org
202-454-2604
Elsevier Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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