Fighting antibiotic resistance

August 2, 2023 – Because antibiotic resistance can threaten the success of treatments across a wide range of conditions, more work needs to be done to prevent it, according to Bill Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“A lot of what we do in medicine relies on our ability to handle bacterial infections that occur along the way,” said Hanage, who was one of the experts quoted in a July 30 article in USA Today. Antibiotics are key to preventing potential infections after surgeries, as well as during steroid treatment for cancer, which weakens the immune system, for example.

A key way to prevent antibiotic resistance is to avoid prescribing the drugs for longer than is necessary to resolve infections, but some doctors have been slow to adopt the practice. “Cultural change in medicine is a really difficult thing to achieve,” Hanage said.

To develop new antibiotics, more research needs to be done on why different bacteria are more likely to develop resistance, he said. For instance, the bacterium that causes strep throat has remained susceptible to penicillin, while the one that causes tuberculosis is becoming increasingly resistant to most antibiotics. “We need to understand more about that kind of thing because it will mean whether any of our interventions will be successful,” he said.

Read the USA Today article: Not ‘if’ but ‘when’: Antibiotic resistance poses existential threat for modern medicine