A study presented on Thursday at the 43rd Annual Conference of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) in Charlotte, North Carolina showed that three in four patients who were treated with antibiotics for symptoms of gonorrhea or chlamydia then tested negative for those sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The research was conducted on records of more than 1,103 emergency department patients who underwent STD testing, and aimed at looking at the rates of unnecessary antibiotic use. While antibiotics are often prescribed in many cases — not just STD-related ones — to patients without having a confirmatory diagnosis, the rate at which patients were prescribed unnecessary antibiotics for these two STDs is high.
The APIC’s statement quotes APIC 2016 President Susan Dolan RN, MS, CIC, hospital epidemiologist at the Children’s Hospital Colorado:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly a third of antibiotics prescribed in doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, and hospital-based clinics in the U.S. are not needed. Improving the use of antibiotics is a national and international priority to help prevent antibiotic resistance which would threaten our ability to treat even the simplest of infections.
While further studies over the years have urged for more testing of gonorrhea and chlamydia, particularly in women, the figures from this study show a disconnect between the recommendations to test and the preemptive prescription of antibiotics. As Dolan pointed out, overprescribing antibiotics can disable a person’s ability to receive treatment for basic infections, resulting in a public health concern for all.