Skin infections harder to treat due to antibiotic resistance

lots of pills with an antibiotic capsule on top

With antibiotic resistance becoming more common, treating common skin infections is becoming more difficult, according to NPS MedicineWise.

Evidence suggests that skin and soft tissue are significant sources of MRSA (Staphylococcus aureus that is methicillin-resistant) in the community—and the rate of MRSA is on the rise.

Antibiotic use in Australia is high and growing, despite evidence linking greater use of antibiotics to resistance and worse individual outcomes.

While to date the problem has mainly been studied in hospitals, there is now an emerging picture of antibiotic resistance in community settings across Australia, with a recent survey finding that skin and soft tissue were significant sources of community-acquired resistant strains.

This Antibiotic Awareness Week (16-22 November 2015), NPS MedicineWise is raising awareness of appropriate use of antibiotics for managing skin conditions, and that not all skin conditions require antibiotics.

The latest edition of Medicinewise News, published online this week, examines appropriate use of antibiotics for skin and soft tissue injuries illustrating this key principle through the management of bite and clenched fist injuries.

Many low-risk skin conditions can be managed without antibiotics. For example, most boils can be treated with incision and drainage without the need for antibiotics. And, in otherwise healthy people with a low risk of infection, most bite and clenched fist injuries can be managed with good wound care alone.

NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes says, “Skin infections come with different risks of infection. When there is no established infection, assess the risk of infection before considering prescribing antibiotics.

“With Australia having a higher rate of antibiotic use than many western European countries, Antibiotic Awareness Week is timely reminder for prescribers to reflect on their antibiotic prescribing practices, including for skin infections.”

Key points covered in the new edition of Medicinewise News include:

  • Assess the risk of infection based on patient history.
  • Be aware that human bites are much more likely to become infected than other animal bites.
  • Avoid prophylactic antibiotics unless the wound/patient has a high infection risk.
  • Cleaning, debridement, irrigation, elevation and immobilisation are the recommended first-line management for bite and clenched fist injuries.

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