Misconceptions about antibiotic use remain prevalent

While today’s post is not specifically about the microbiome, it is about a critical issue that we talk about all the time on this blog, the misuse of antibiotics in today’s society. A group of researchers compared the attitudes of parents with children on Mediciad managed care plans to those on commercial plans about the use of antibiotics and published their results in Pediatrics. They utilized insurance type as a proxy for sociodemographic factors as Medicaid is a government run insurance program for lower-income families.

The researchers surveyed approximately 1,500 families in Massachusetts with a child younger than 6 and asked them about the use of antibiotics for their children. Those insured by Medicaid answered more questions about antibiotics incorrectly than those with commercial plans. Another important finding was that those insured by Medicaid were more likely to request antibiotics be prescribed to their child unnecessarily.

The overuse of antibiotics in children can lead to significant health issues during childhood as well as later in life. Many studies, including many by Dr. Marty Blaser, have shown that antibiotic use has critical impacts on the microbiome with many downstream heath effects. Overusing antibiotics can also lead to antibiotic resistance, a rapidly growing public health concern.

A key takeaway from this study is that education by providers to parents about what antibiotics are useful and not useful for is critical. Pressure from parents of sick children will often lead to the unnecessary and ineffective prescription of antibiotics and it is important that these practices are ended. The authors of the paper state,“Tailored efforts for socioeconomically disadvantaged populations remain warranted to decrease parental drivers of unnecessary antibiotic prescribing.”

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