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Smarten Up About Antibiotics, CDC Urges
Date:11/19/2010

By Julia VanTine
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Nov. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Knowing when to take antibiotics -- and when not to -- can help fight the rise of deadly "superbugs," say experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About half of antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary or inappropriate, the agency says, and overuse has helped create bacteria that don't respond, or respond less effectively, to the drugs used to fight them.

"Antibiotics are a shared resource that has become a scarce resource," said Dr. Lauri Hicks, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC. She's also medical director a of new program, Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work, that had its launch this week. "Everyone has a role to play in preventing the spread of antibiotic resistance," Hicks said.

The stakes are high, said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, CDC's associate director for health care-associated infection prevention programs. Almost every type of bacteria has become stronger and less responsive to antibiotic treatment, he said.

The CDC is urging Americans to use the drugs properly to help prevent the global problem of antibiotic resistance. To that end, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), numerous national medical and scientific associations, as well as state and local health departments have collaborated on the CDC's Get Smart initiative.

Most strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are still found in health care settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes. Yet superbugs, including MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) -- which kills about 19,000 Americans a year -- are increasingly found in community settings, such as health clubs, schools, and workplaces, said Hicks.

Community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA), a strain that affects healthy people outside of hospitals, made headlines in 2008, when it killed a Florida high school football player.

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