There’s no denying the value of using antibiotics to fight bacterial infections. These powerful drugs are generally safe, but when used inappropriately antibiotics can be harmful and sometimes deadly.
A healthcare provider prescribes antibiotics in the absence of a bacterial infection or when an alternative treatment course may be more appropriate.
A patient does not take their antibiotics as prescribed or is exposed to prolonged treatment even after elimination of an infection.
Both scenarios can lead to a range of not-so-pleasant side effects of antibiotics, such as:1
Antibiotics are the leading cause of emergency department visits for adverse drug events in children and adolescents.1
Using antibiotics inappropriately—for example, in the case of viral infections—may do more harm than good. Indeed, antibiotics cause 1 out of 5 emergency department visits for adverse drug events and are the most common cause of emergency department visits for adverse drug events in children under 18 years of age. Taking unnecessary antibiotics also increases the risk of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection later. In addition, studies demonstrate an association between inappropriate antibiotic use and increased mortality.2-7
Antibiotics kill the healthy bacteria in the gut, allowing more harmful bacteria, such as Clostridioides difficile (C. diff), to grow in its place. Infections caused by C. diff may lead to serious, possibly life-threatening diarrhea. People over the age of 65, as well as those who are hospitalized for a prolonged time or have had recent antibiotic exposure, are at high risk for C. diff. 8
According to the CDC, most cases of C. diff infection (CDI) occur while taking antibiotics or not long after finishing antibiotics.9 Studies have shown that long term use of antibiotics and cumulative exposure are significant risk factors for CDI.10,11 Antimicrobial stewardship programs that focus on the overall reduction of total dose as well as number and days of antibiotic exposure and the substitution of high-risk antibiotic classes for lower-risk alternatives may reduce the incidence of hospital-acquired CDI.11
Increasing numbers of hospitals are implementing antibiotic stewardship programs to encourage appropriate antibiotic prescribing, with the goal of preventing antibiotic resistance. One tool these programs rely on is procalcitonin (PCT), a sensitive, specific and timely biomarker that may already be present within existing healthcare systems.
Whether in the emergency department or inpatient hospital setting, PCT testing can help clinicians provide tailored antibiotic therapy to avoid the inappropriate overuse of antibiotics—an essential component of antibiotic stewardship programs.
Here’s a look at some ways PCT testing can reduce antibiotic exposure and improve outcomes:
For example, studies show a reduction in the antibiotic exposure rate of up to 50% in the procalcitonin-aided group as compared to the standard-of-care (control) group.7
Reducing levels of antibiotic use has, in turn, led to improved short- and long-term survival rates. 4,7 In short, procalcitonin can help save lives.
With the right biomarker testing in place, hospitals can bolster their antibiotic stewardship programs and reduce unnecessary antibiotic exposure. Procalcitonin gives clinicians the information they need to determine whether to prescribe or discontinue antibiotic therapy. However, testing for PCT alone isn’t enough. It’s also necessary to understand what the results mean, and how PCT can shape a successful approach to treatment.
Explore how PCT may aid in therapeutic decision making in different clinical settings: