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Release: Jan. 25, 2001

Antibiotic resistance to pneumococcal infections is on the rise in Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The percentage of a common type of infection that is resistant to treatment by antibiotics is rising in Iowa, according to a statewide survey from University of Iowa researchers and other state health professionals.

Data from surveillance of the state's most serious infections, conducted by the Iowa Task Force for Antibiotic Resistance, shows that 27 percent of all invasive pneumococcal infections were resistant to penicillin in 2000, compared to 24 percent in 1999.

"This is a concern," said Daniel J. Diekema, M.D., UI assistant professor of pathology and internal medicine and a member of the task force, "because penicillin-resistant pneumococcus is frequently resistant to many other antibiotic classes, making it much more difficult to treat these common and serious infections."

Pneumococcus is a leading cause of illness in young children and the elderly. It causes ear infections, sinusitis, pneumonia and one of the most fatal forms of meningitis.

One of the primary causes of antibiotic resistance is the inappropriate use of antibiotics to treat viral infections such as colds, coughs and the flu. Antibiotics are ineffective against these disorders and should not be used.

It is also important for patients receiving appropriate antibiotics to finish all the medicine prescribed. This reduces the chances of microbes escaping the antibiotic and becoming resistant to subsequent treatment.

  • Reducing Antibiotic Resistance

* Do not request or demand antibiotics for viral illnesses such as colds, cough, or flu.
* Remember that a viral infection may take up to two weeks to run its course. Antibiotics will not help.
* If an antibiotic is necessary for a bacterial infection, ask your doctor for one that's targeted to the specific infection.
*When taking antibiotics, follow all directions exactly and finish the entire prescription, even if you start to feel better.
* Do not save, share or buy antibiotics for later use.

Ask your doctor about vaccinations you or your children might need.

  • Pneumococcal Facts

* Pneumococcus is a bacteria which causes ear infection, sinusitis, pneumonia, and meningitis.

* Vaccines are available for children and adults to help prevent pneumococcal infections, hospitalization and death.

* Vaccination is recommended for children and adults aged 65 or older and for anyone at high risk for pneumococcal infection, such as those without a spleen. Ask your doctor for more information.

* Last year in Iowa, pneumococcus caused serious infections in more than 385 people. Pneumococcus causes approximately 40 percent of bacterial ear infections.

  • Iowa Antibiotic Resistance Taskforce Members

Nancy Bowersox, R.Ph., Iowa Pharmacy Association
Terry Cowan, D.V.M., M.S., Iowa Veterinary Medical Association
Mary DeMartino, B.S., University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory
Daniel J. Diekema, M.D., University of Iowa Health Care
Jane P. Getchell, Dr.P.H., University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory
Mary J.R. Gilchrist, Ph.D., University of Iowa Hygienic Laboratory
Loreen Herwaldt, M.D., University of Iowa Health Care
Doug Jones, M.D., University of Iowa Health Care
Gail Meyer, R.N., B.S.N., Association of Iowa Hospitals & Health System
John Olds, M.D., Medicare
Michael Pfaller, M.D., University of Iowa Health Care
Patricia Quinlisk, M.D., M.P.H., Iowa Department of Public Health
Stephen Richards, D.O., Iowa Academy of Family Physicians and Iowa Medical Society
Stephen B. Rinderknecht, D.O., Iowa Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics
Frances Sadden, R.N., B.S.N., Iowa Nurses Association
Lisa Veach, M.D., Iowa Medical Society
Judy Weller, R.N., Iowa Health Care Association
R. Todd Wiblin, M.D., University of Iowa Health Care

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.