Use of carbapenems on the rise

The use of carbapenems, a powerful class of antibiotics, has increased dramatically in the United States over the past five years, according to a new study.

Researchers are concerned by the growing use of carbapenems because they are widely regarded as the last line of defense against multidrug-resistant bacteria, and carbapenem-resistant bacteria are becoming more commonplace, according to

The overuse of carbapenem drugs has the direct potential to lead to a reduction in their effectiveness against infections that are hard to treat.

The study, presented at the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America's annual meeting in Dallas, analyzed the use of antibiotics in 110 Veterans Administration healthcare facilities from 2005 to 2009.

The researchers found an overall increase in the use of antibiotics during this period, but a major increase in certain types, reports. Carbapenem use increased 102 percent during this period. Also during this period, intravenous vancomycin use increased 79 percent and combinations of penicillin with beta-lactamase-inhibitors increased 41 percent.

Fluoroquinolones were the most frequently used antibiotic in VA facilities, accounting for 20 percent of all antibiotic use.

"Use of these antibiotics helps the patient receiving the treatment, but has future consequences for innocent bystanders. The more these drugs are used, the more resistance we see," study author Dr. Makoto Jones said, according to

Dr. Steven Gordon, the SHEA president, said that doctors must always put the patient first, but he added that medicine must empower effective antibiotic stewardship programs, infection prevention control efforts and the development of new types of diagnostic testing, reports. He also wishes to see support for the development of new kinds of antibiotics.