Q: Why Culture Bacteria Before Antibiotic Use?Nutrition | Christine Dionese L.Ac | July 14, 2010 at 7:00 am
Q: My son’s pediatrician just prescribed antibiotics for what she thought was bronchitis. I thought the antibiotic choice was strange since I was prescribed the same one weeks earlier for a stubborn urinary tract infection. I usually take herbs for infections and know that different herbs are used for different bacterias. Isn’t there a way to match antibiotics with particular bacterias as they differ? Jaycn L. Austin, Texas
A: Great question, the answer is yes! There is a procedure referred to as culturing bacteria for sensitivity that is employed in the lab to distinguish specific strains of bacteria from one another. Once the strain is determined, the proper antibiotic is administered to eradicate infection.
Culturing for bacteria takes time and has been criticized by some seasoned professionals as stalling treatment. The argument some clinicians make is that they’ve seen so many similar cases, why waste time when they can simply treat? The value of culturing however that is often overlooked is that it also rules out whether or not the infection is of bacterial or viral origin. Consider earaches for instance. Most earaches and ear infections are initially caused by a virus. The bacteria can come later, but doesn’t always. The point is to properly distinguish bacterias from viruses to ensure the most precise care.
Although compounding research reveals antibiotic resistance continues to grow, antibiotic overuse remains a serious public health issue. Usually patients visit their health care provider wanting immediate treatment and answers. In response to an ailing patient before them, health care providers often prescribe antibiotics based upon the clinical presentation of signs and symptoms without culturing. This quick-draw approach to antibiotic use however contributes to the still growing issue of anti-biotic resistance.
Being your own advocate is the best advice I offer patients on this hot-button topic. Give your naturopath or Chinese health care provider a call to see if antibiotic use can be avoided. If it is in fact necessary, insist your provider culture the bacteria to best match the medicine with the specific strain. Remember, by protecting yourself and your family, you’re playing a larger role in preserving community health!
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