South leads in antibiotic use

New data about antibiotic use in the United States was recently released as part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-sponsored Get Smart About Antibiotics Week.

The data, compiled by the Washington-based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy's Extending the Cure project, shows that patterns of antibiotic overuse vary dramatically by region, with the Southeastern states having the highest rates, according to the L.A. Times.

Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana had more than one antibiotic prescription per capita in 2010. Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington ranked the lowest with just over one annual prescription for every two people.

Overall antibiotic use in the United States has dropped over the last decade. In 1999, 966 prescriptions were made for every thousand residents. The number dropped to 801 in 2010.

Public health officials are concerned that antibiotic overuse and misuse could lead to the development of drug-resistant strains. Urinary tract infections were once easily treated and have now become resistant to medication.

"It's something we see on a weekly basis in our emergency room," Dr. Sara Cosgrove of the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore said, the L.A. Times reports. "We have women who need to be admitted to the hospital for a urinary tract infection. In the past we would have sent them home with a pill."

The center has tracked antibiotic use over time and incorporated the data with statistics from bacterial culture labs nationwide, as well as prescription data from U.S. pharmacies, to create what it calls a "resistance map."

The map was unveiled as part of the annual Get Smart About Antibiotics Week.