MedWest conducts research on antibiotic overuse

By Christine Deidesheimer | Jul 22, 2013

Have you ever been been prescribed rest, fluids and over-the-counter medicine for a sore throat and runny nose and then think, “Shouldn’t I get some antibiotics…just to be safe?” If so, then it might be time to change your thinking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking antibiotics when you don’t need them may do more harm than good. Unfortunately, antibiotic overuse is common and can lead to resistance and potentially fatal complications. But how can we tell when antibiotics are appropriate?

MedWest Haywood has partnered with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Western Carolina University to conduct in depth research on procalcitonin as it relates to antibiotic misuse and overuse by hospitalized patients.

Procalcitonin is a chemical in our blood. Higher levels are detected when there is a bacterial infection in our body than when the illness is caused by a virus.

The project involves testing the levels of procalcitonin in someone’s body when they are sick in the hospital. The idea for MedWest Haywood to embark on this journey came from hospitalist David Stevens, MD.

“I used the Procalcitonin (PCT) test for about two years at the previous hospital in Wisconsin,” Stevens said.  “With rapid availability of the PCT results in-house, it quickly became evident that the test directly impacted patient care and antibiotic use.”

Stevens said when evaluating a hospitalized patient, it is not often clear if there is a bacterial infection, viral infection or other cause for the illness.  The PCT test is a strong indicator of serious bacterial infections.

“The test does have some limitations and still requires clinical judgment, but gives an early alarm if there is a bacterial infection, and importantly, if antibiotics may be avoided,” said Stevens.

Tracey Truesdale, Pharm.D., clinical pharmacy manager at MedWest Haywood said the testing can also help determine if someone is taking the wrong antibiotics and can help limit the duration of antibiotic use.

Judy Neubrander, EdD, FNP-BC, is collaborating with the team to develop and implement the research study. Neubrander has been a nurse for more than 25 years and is the director of the school of nursing at WCU.

“Our committee is refining the research on the procalcitonin research study,” Neubrander said. “I think [the study] can make a significant impact and contribute to the body of medical knowledge.”

UNC — Chapel Hill student Brian Fisette is in the honors program in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, and is part of the project’s research team.

“As a student, being exposed to clinical research gives me a broader sense of clinical pharmacy than what I might get from the clinical curriculum,” he said.

This multi-disciplinary project serves as a reminder of the talented group of scientists, physicians and clinical support staff available to patients in this region.

Deidesheimer is the director of marketing and public relations at MedWest Haywood.

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