A patient with an infection has a lot of different types of bacteria. The antibiotic kills off the vulnerable bacteria, leaving behind a few bacteria to evolve and mutate and share their genetic material.

The big issue

Dr. Julie Gerberding, the executive vice president of strategic communications for Merck & Co., Inc.’s global public policy and population health division, recently said it’s up to clinicians to develop better diagnostic tests to more accurately diagnose infections to find the best antibiotic to treat the infection.

“We need to focus on the single drug that the patient needs,” says Dr. Gerberding, clarifying that the trend is moving towards using fewer doses of antibiotics to treat the patient.

Finding a solution

Antibiotic stewardship emphasizes prescribing the right antibiotic in the right dosage for the right amount of time without under-treating the patient.

“We have these wonderful new antibiotics, but we don’t want to use them unless we have to,” Dr. Gerberding adds. “We need to find the right balance without erring on the over-treating and under-treating side of the equation,” she continued.

“We need to find the right balance without erring on the over-treating and under-treating side of the equation.”

This has created a paradox. Fewer doses of antibiotics are needed so pharmaceutical companies have stopped manufacturing new antibiotics.

Companies aren’t willing to make the investment. The public health community and government agencies need to form partnerships to solve this problem.

To Dr. Gerberding, the ramifications run wide, and deep: “Everyone has a stake in this.”