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Blog - Prescribe antibiotics only when it’s effective

Antibiotics are incredibly powerful. A common misunderstanding among patients is that antibiotics are effective against any kind of infection, including viral infections. However, this is not the case.

Prescribe antibiotics only when it’s effective

“I think I have an infection. Can you please prescribe antibiotics?” As a physician, I bet this is a question you hear over and over again. Perhaps you do a test and wait for the results to come back from the lab. Or, you start an antibiotics treatment just in case. In a perfect world, you should be able to carry out a test on the spot and provide your patient with the right treatment, right? In this blog article, I’ll dig deeper into why antibiotics are so powerful yet potentially harmful if not used correctly, and how you can feel confident about prescribing antibiotics for your patients on the spot.

The power of antibiotics

Antibiotics are incredibly powerful. They save lives every day by fighting bacterial infections. Antibiotics are originally derived from microorganisms that are naturally present in, for example, bacteria, fungi and molds, but can also be produced synthetically. There are different types of antibiotics, but they all function in either of two ways: by stopping the bacteria from multiplying, (bacteriostatic antibiotic) or by destroying them (bactericidal antibiotic).

Many times, the body can fight harmful bacteria on its own. The white blood cells, also called leukocytes, attack the harmful bacteria and the infection starts to heal. But sometimes, the harmful bacteria are growing too fast, and the body isn’t able to keep up the fight. This is when antibiotics are needed. A common misunderstanding among patients is that antibiotics are effective against any kind of infection, including viral infections. However, this is not the case.

The very first antibiotic was the penicillin, invented by Scottish biologist, pharmacologist, and botanist Alexander Fleming in 1928. Later, when he won the Nobel Prize, he said: “Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself, and by exposing his microbes to nonlethal quantities of the drug, make them resistant”.

Unfortunately, he was right.

Why overuse of antibiotics is ​potentially harmful to our society

Today, there’s an overuse of antibiotics resulting in a rapid development of resistant microorganisms. As a result, the antibiotics become ineffective. When the antibiotics cannot fight the infection, the bacteria remain in the body and the risk of spreading the infection to others increases. This is potentially harmful to our society as it threatens our ability to treat infectious diseases, resulting in prolonged illness, disability, and even death.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 480 000 people develop multi-drug resistant tuberculosis each year, and drug resistance is starting to complicate the fight against HIV and malaria, as well. Without effective antibiotics, medical procedures such as organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery become very high-risk. Also, the cost of healthcare increases with lengthier stays in hospitals and more intensive care required.

How physicians can feel confident about prescribing antibiotics

So what can we do to fight antibiotic resistance? First of all, fighting antibiotic resistance requires action across government sectors and society worldwide. But it can also start with you - the physician. In many places, antibiotics are overused and misused in people, and often given without professional oversight. For example, when antibiotics are taken by people with viral infections. For physicians, lack of time and not having the right equipment at hand may lead to hasty - and sometimes wrong - decisions.

Count total WBC on the spot with a 5-part differential

The HemoCueⓇ WBC DIFF​ is the only point-of-care test (POCT) for five-part differential white blood cell count. Together with clinical signs, the test helps guide whether it’s a bacterial or viral infection. It allows you to prescribe antibiotics only when you know it’s really effective - on the spot. ​The HemoCueⓇ WBC DIFF​ test is easy to use and only takes five minutes to perform. The five-part differential white blood cell count adds more information to the clinical evaluation of your patient, and directs you in further testing and treatment steps.

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog article. Please, ​visit HemoCue’s website​ for more relevant and informative on the subject.

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