Antibiotic overuse is a danger to public health, and especially dangerous for pregnant women

 The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has warned the public that antibiotic overuse has the potential to cripple the entire modern medical system.1

Despite public awareness campaigns about responsible use of antibiotics, antibiotics continue to be prescribed for colds, flu, sinusitis and bronchitis. Medical authorities continually warn doctors that antibiotics should NOT be prescribed for routine bronchitis and sinusitis. The scientific studies show that they do not improve outcome.  These are infections that, except in rare instances, are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Plus, these infections resolve by strengthening the immune system with excellent nutrition, not weakening it and creating more serious future infections that can develop as a result of antibiotic use.

As inappropriate use of antibiotics continues, more and more resistant microbes will spread, and antibiotics will consequently become less effective. Drug-resistant bacteria emerge from mutations – microbes are constantly mutating, and these mutations eventually cause resistance to antibiotics.

Drug-resistant infections kill about 19,000 people each year in the U.S., and are a significant cost to the healthcare system.1 Drug-resistant bacteria have the potential to compromise our ability to perform procedures for which antibiotics are crucial.

"If this wave of antibiotic resistance gets over us, we will not be able to do organ transplants, hip replacements, cancer chemotherapy, intensive care and neonatal care for premature babies."

- Dominique Monnet, ECDC scientific advice unit1

The dangers of antibiotic overuse extend further than infection alone – all drugs have side effects, and antibiotics are especially toxic, and their side-effects are significant. Antibiotics kill bacteria indiscriminately – therefore they disrupt our microbial balance, killing the beneficial flora that aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients and keep other microbes at bay. Children who are prescribed more antibiotics in the first year of life are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma and allergies during childhood.3  Antibiotic use has even been linked to a higher incidence of breast cancer.4   

Antibiotics are one of the most common medications taken by pregnant women, and a new study has made connections between antibiotics use during pregnancy and incidence of birth defects. Sulfonamides and nitrofurantoins were each associated with several birth defects – women who took these classes of antibiotics while pregnant were 2-4 times as likely to give birth to a baby with a heart defect. The more commonly used penicillins, eythromycins, and cephalosporins were each associated with at least one birth defect.2  

Antibiotics are not harmless medications and should be reserved for severe (and carefully documented) bacterial infections - infections that would seriously threaten the health of the patient if left untreated. We have powerful immune systems which, when supported by excellent nutrition, will clear the more moderate infections without help from drugs. 



  2. Crider KS et al. Antibacterial medication use during pregnancy and risk of birth defects: National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Nov;163(11):978-85.
  3. Foliaki S et al. Antibiotic use in infancy and symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children 6 and 7 years old: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase III. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Nov;124(5):982-9.
  4. Velicer CM et al. Antibiotic Use in Relation to the Risk of Breast Cancer. JAMA. 2004;291:827-835.


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Greg - November 30, 2009 1:39 PM

Isn't it true that far more antibiotics are used in the production of animals than humans use for our own diseases?

If we really want to lessen the amount of antibiotics used, forgoing antibiotic treatment for an illness is not enough.

We have to stop eating meat produced with the heavy, liberal use of antibiotics. Our food producers use them as a preventative measure to ensure higher profits today at the expense of tomorrow.

Monty - November 30, 2009 4:37 PM

The supermarkets in my area are pushing a Free Antibiotics sales campaign. What are they trying to sell by promoting increased antibiotic use, and possibly overuse?

C - November 30, 2009 5:20 PM

You have to be careful when you say things like, "Children who are prescribed more antibiotics in the first year of life are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma and allergies during childhood."

If you read the study that came to that conclusion, you'll see that the authors did not make any claim that there was a causal link between antibiotic in the first year of life and a diagnosis of asthma or allergies later. They could not rule out the possibility that the antibiotics were prescribed for chest infections that then led to chronic respiratory disease (asthma) in some children.

I firmly believe that antibiotics are overused, and that this poses a great health risk both presently and in the future, but please be responsible and report the facts and only the facts when disseminating this information. It's an important issue for everyone to understand, but there is no need to distort the science in order to make your point.

Deana Ferreri - November 30, 2009 6:00 PM

In scientific studies, especially on human beings, it is almost impossible to definitively determine causal links.

I don't think that sentence implied a definitive causal link it implied an association - something to take note of.

MIke Rubino - November 30, 2009 7:16 PM

Antibiotics are the 50's aspirin and are handed out like candy kisses by the average Doctor. Somebody better wake these folks up.

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