Vaccination is keyThe fact that antibiotic resistance was discovered among older patients who have been hospitalized in nursing homes has led to increased warnings that wrongly-prescribed or administered doses and over-reliance on antibiotics can breed life-threatening drug-defying bacteria, especially among the elderly. Drug resistance is developed when a bacteria is able to survive after being exposed to antibiotics. Five out of 510 seniors at nursing homes who were treated for pneumonia did not respond to six types of widely used antibiotics. Two other stronger medications such as vancomycin only mildly helped to kill the streptococcus bacteria in their bodies.
The discovery made by a team at Samsung Medical Center that studied pneumonia cases among elderly patients between 2011 and 2012 raises concern about the health of the elderly. Pneumonia can be life-threatening to senior citizens with poor immune systems and it is more dangerous if they are infected with drug-resistant bacteria and cannot be cured. One patient whose pneumonia could not be tamed through existing antibiotics died in just seven days from septicemia, or blood infection.
Drug-resistance cases are usually found in large hospitals, often in intensive care units. Nursing facilities and homes should scrutinize hospital records of new patients and isolate those who had been moved from intensive care from other patients to prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. There must be a set of guidelines to prevent drug-resistant infections. Those who require long-term prescriptions of penicillin or other antibiotics demand special attention. Authorities should have medical professionals routinely check on facilities to accurately administer dosages of antibiotics.
Vaccines are the best defense against infections. Health authorities should actively campaign for adults of a certain age to be vaccinated against pneumonia. Under new health rules, infants have been able to get free vaccinations against pneumonia-related bacterial species since May. The same rule will be applied to senior citizens over the age of 65 starting next month. Health authorities should make sure all patients in nursing homes are vaccinated. Visiting families should also be inoculated. Vaccines against pneumonia bacterial species, which remains at about 5 percent, should be raised to a rate of more than 30 percent.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 10, Page 30