A new course developed by the University of Waterloo will teach health-care providers in community settings –  family physicians, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists – how to better manage the use of antibiotics.

The use of antibiotic resistance ranks as one of the biggest threats to global health, the World Health Organization says. 

“All health-care providers have a role to play in preventing the development of antibiotic resistance by ensuring that the right antibiotic is used, at the right dose, for the right amount of time, and only when needed,” said Brett Barrett, University of Waterloo professor and lead author of the course.

Medecine pills

“As antibiotic resistance grows, we run the risk that simple infections, like a scraped knee or strep throat, could once again kill,” Barrett said.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to antibiotics. These changes make the antibiotics less effective, making it harder to prevent and treat infection.

“Adoption of antibiotic stewardship practices by health-care providers is necessary to slow the spread of antibiotic resistance. Many hospitals already have stewardship programs and education in place. However, we found there was a lack of educational content for providers who work in community settings like pharmacies, dental offices, and family physician offices,” said Barrett, a Consultant Infectious Disease Pharmacist who previously led the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Grand River Hospital.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) provided support and expertise for development of the UW course content. “The overuse and misuse of antibiotics are key causes of antimicrobial resistance. Health care providers play an important role to ensure antibiotics are used responsibly by Canadians and help preserve their effectiveness for future generations,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. 

Additional contributors include Susan Sutherland, Dentist-in-Chief at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Associate Professor at the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto. Along with an interdisciplinary Advisory and Planning Committee, this team of Canadian experts collaborated to develop a fully online course highlighting best practices for antibiotic use in community settings.

“We know that primary-care health professionals face unique challenges when trying to optimize the use of antibiotics with their patients. We addressed those challenges and incorporated multimedia components, including interactive cases and tips from practicing health professionals for each of these,” Barrett said. “The course outlines how to improve antibiotic use in commonly seen conditions like bronchitis, sore throats, ear infections in children, urinary tract infection, dental practice, and more.”

 “Antibiotics are unique in that they are the only class of drug where use in one patient impacts the usefulness of the drug in other patients. Therefore, we need to see antibiotics as a shared resource, which must be protected for the safety of future generations,” Barrett said.

The course, called Antimicrobial Stewardship in Primary Care, is accredited for family physicians and pharmacists and opened for enrollment by all health-care professionals on May 1.

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