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Antibiotic Use Spiked Worldwide, Study Finds

Update Date: Jul 11, 2014 03:00 PM EDT

Even though the development of antibiotic-resistant bugs have alarmed health officials throughout the world, a new study found that the use of antibiotics has increased by 36 percent on a global scale.

"People are getting richer and can afford antibiotics," said Thomas Van Boeckel, a Princeton University epidemiologist and lead author of the study reported by Medical Xpress. "That is not necessarily all bad news. People need access to antibiotics. But there is appropriate use and misuse."

In this study, the researchers examined the use of antibiotics in 71 countries between 2000 and 2010. They found that the spike in antibiotics is not attributed to increases in population. Instead, more than 75 percent of the increased rate of antibiotics used throughout the world could be linked to expanding economies in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The researchers found that out of all kinds of antibiotics, broad-spectrum options, which are often used as a last resort, have been used more commonly. The antibiotics are known as carbapenems, and include drugs such as ampicillin and amoxicillin. The researchers cautioned that overusing these drugs could reduce their effectiveness.

"If we lose the effectiveness of these drugs, there really isn't much left," Van Boeckel said.

Despite the rise in antibiotic use, the researchers could not identify whether or not the spike was caused by misuse or an increase in viral infections. For example, low and middle-income nations might be using antibiotics, such as cephalosporin and fluoroquinolone more often due to diarrheal illnesses or mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever or chikungunya.

Van Boeckel added, "If you look at antibiotic use in the U.S., it's correlated to influenza, and it's not going to do anything for that."

The researchers concluded that health professionals throughout the world must be more careful when prescribing antibiotics. The study, "Global antibiotic consumption 2000 to 2010: an analysis of national pharmaceutical sales data," was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

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