Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Associate Director for Healthcare-Associated Infection Prevention Programs Arjun Srinivasan, MD. Photo by CDC

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Associate Director for Healthcare-Associated Infection Prevention Programs Arjun Srinivasan, MD. Photo by CDC

Nove. 16-22 is Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, a week-long observance to raise awareness of the threat of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescribing and use. APHA’s Get Ready Campaign caught up with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Associate Director for Healthcare-Associated Infection Prevention Programs Arjun Srinivasan, MD, to discuss how Americans can help fight against antibiotic resistance — and prevent it from creating health emergencies.

Note: This podcast, and a transcript of the conversation, can be viewed in its entirety at APHA Get Ready.

Good afternoon, Dr. Srinivasan. My first question for you: What kind of emergencies can antibiotic resistance cause and how is this affecting us as a society?

You know, I think that’s an important point that you’re raising in terms of raising awareness about the issues with respect to emergency preparedness and emergencies with antibiotic resistance. Infections by their nature are almost always urgent and many are emergent. Infections are one of those things that can make people very, very sick and even kill people very quickly. So when we have an infection there is an urgent need to treat someone appropriately. When that requires an antibiotic, we need to know that the antibiotic is effective.

The problem with antibiotic resistance is that it takes away the drugs we could normally come to to treat infections. So, when you’re talking about someone who’s very ill, like has a really life-threatening infection like sepsis, for example, if we can’t get them on the right antibiotic quickly, we are less likely to be able to let them survive that infection. So, if we are encountering situations like we are in many hospitals where there’s a lot of drug resistance and we don’t know which antibiotic to reach for first, then that really exacerbates an emergency situation.

It makes it that much harder for our emergency providers in hospitals and outpatient settings to be able to treat those emergencies most effectively.