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Infectious Disease Physician: Antibiotics aren’t always the best medicine

Infectious Disease Physician: Antibiotics aren’t always the best medicine
November 21, 2019 Janet Long

Infectious Disease Physician: Antibiotics aren’t always the best medicine

Antibiotics are one of the most useful medicines available, but they might not be for long if not used properly.

That’s what Morris Hospital Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. John Bolden stresses heading into the winter, when cases of flu, colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections and other such illness most frequently occur.

“Antibiotics aren’t always needed,” said Dr. Bolden, who also serves as chair of the infection control committee at Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers. “Thirty to 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed are unnecessary or inappropriate.”

Why is this important? The more antibiotics we take, the more likely it is for bacteria to become resistant to those antibiotics. Which means, the next time you come down with an infection, antibiotics might not kill it.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have become a serious problem, Dr. Bolden said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC) reports that each year in the United States, at least two million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 people die as a result. Some strains of bacteria have become resistant to several kinds of antibiotics. And they can even share their resistant genes with other germs, making them antibiotic-resistant, as well.

“The cases of multi-resistant bacteria are going up,” Dr. Bolden said. “The problem is getting worse. Most hospitals today, including Morris Hospital, have an antibiotic stewardship program that promotes appropriate antibody use.”

Some of the cases of antibiotic-resistant infections Dr. Bolden sees in his practice are classified as urgent threats. They include MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), C. diff (Clostridium difficile) and drug-resistant gonorrhea.

He has also seen cases of ESBL (Extended Spectrum Beta Lactamase) Resistance, a family of germs that includes antibiotic-resistant E. coli. This family of bacteria is resistant to penicillins and cepholosporins.

To help keep bacteria from developing a resistance to antibiotics, Dr. Bolden advises listening to your physician when he or she has determined that antibiotics will not cure a particular ailment.

“Viruses are not killed by antibiotics,” Dr. Bolden said. “If you have a cold, the flu, or some types of bronchitis, ear infections or pneumonia, antibiotics might not do any good at all, or they might harm you through side effects.”

Most viral infections get better on their own in four or five days, Dr. Bolden said. There are also swabs and other tests doctors can do to determine if your infection is viral or bacterial.

“And when antibiotics are necessary,” he said, “take them as instructed. Take the full course, even if you feel better sooner.”

Dr. Bolden said good ways to steer clear of contracting infections are to get recommended vaccinations; take antibiotics as prescribed; wash your hands properly; eat and sleep well; protect yourself against sexually-transmitted diseases; prepare food safely; consider taking probiotics, especially when on antibiotics; and tell your doctor if you have an infection, especially if it’s not getting better or is getting worse.

Dr. Bolden sees patients at the Morris Hospital Infectious Disease Specialists office at 425 E. U.S. Route 6 in Morris. For more information or to make an appointment, contact Dr. Bolden at 815-513-3074 or visit