More than 4 million Americans get admitted to nursing homes per year where antibiotics are among the most frequently prescribed medications. Up to 75 percent of the residents receive at least one course of antibiotics in a year.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), however, said that up to 75 percent of nursing home residents are incorrectly given antibiotics, which means that the drug is not necessary or the patient is given prescription with the wrong dose, duration or drug.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the CDC urged improvements in antibiotic prescribing practices in nursing homes to protect residents from threats of antibiotic-resistant infections.

The country's public health watch dog also released a new resource called "Core Elements of Antibiotic Stewardship for Nursing Homes" to help optimize infection treatments while reducing the threats associated with misuse of antibiotics.

The agency urged nursing homes to track the number and type of antibiotics that they prescribe monthly and the effects of these medications on patients.

CDC Director Tom Frieden M.D., M.P.H., warned of the health risks posed by superbugs particularly to the elderly whose bodies are no longer efficient at fighting infection well. He said that a good way to keep older Americans safe from superbugs is to ensure that antibiotics are properly used especially in nursing homes.

"We encourage nursing homes to work in a step-wise manner implementing one or two activities at first, and then gradually adding new strategies from each core element over time," said Nimalie Stone, M.D., CDC medical epidemiologist for long-term care. "Taking any of these actions to improve antibiotic use in a nursing home will help protect against antibiotic-resistant infections and more effectively treat infections."

Research has found evidence that the increasing antibiotic use has led to an increase in drug-resistant bacteria. In a report released by CDC in August, researchers found that wide-scale efforts aimed at healthcare-associated infections such as antibiotic stewardship programs may prevent over 600,000 infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria.

"Immediate nationwide infection control and antibiotic stewardship interventions, over 5 years, could avert an estimated 619,000 HAIs resulting from CRE, multidrug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), or C. difficile," CDC researchers wrote in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) report.

Besides fostering antibiotic resistant bacteria, antibiotics can also cause allergic reaction and interfere with other medications that nursing home residents are taking. Experts likewise said that bad effects of antibiotics do not appear until weeks or months later.

Photo: Ulrich Joho | Flickr 

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