University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Daniel J. Diekema, MD, MS
Associate Professor of Internal Medicine/Pathology
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
The percentage of a common type of infection that is resistant to
treatment by ordinary antibiotics is rising in Iowa, according to a
statewide survey from University of Iowa researchers and other state
Data from surveillance of the state's most serious infections,
conducted by the Iowa Task Force for Antibiotic Resistance, shows
that 27 percent of all invasive pneumococcal infections were
resistant to penicillin in 2000, compared to 24 percent in 1999.
"This is a concern," said Daniel J. Diekema, MD, UI assistant
professor of pathology and internal medicine and a member of the task
force, "because penicillin-resistant pneumococcus is frequently
resistant to many other antibiotic classes, making it much more
difficult to treat these common and serious infections."
Pneumococcus is a leading cause of illness in young children and
the elderly. It causes ear infections, sinusitis, pneumonia and one
of the most fatal forms of meningitis.
One of the primary causes of antibiotic resistance is the
inappropriate use of antibiotics to treat viral infections such as
colds, coughs and the flu. Antibiotics are ineffective against these
disorders and should not be used.
It is also important for patients receiving appropriate
antibiotics to finish all the medicine prescribed. This reduces the
chances of microbes escaping the antibiotic and becoming resistant to
Following are steps to help reduce antibiotic resistance:
- Do not request or demand antibiotics for viral illnesses such
as colds, cough, or flu.
- Remember that a viral infection may take up to two weeks to
run its course. Antibiotics will not help.
- If an antibiotic is necessary for a bacterial infection, ask
your doctor for one that's targeted to the specific
- When taking antibiotics, follow all directions exactly and
finish the entire prescription, even if you start to feel
- Do not save, share or buy antibiotics for later use.
- Ask your doctor about vaccinations you or your children might
Following are facts about pneumococcus:
- Pneumococcus is a bacteria which causes ear infection,
sinusitis, pneumonia, and meningitis.
- Vaccines are available for children and adults to help prevent
pneumococcal infections, hospitalization and death.
- Vaccination is recommended for children and adults aged 65 or
older and for anyone at high risk for pneumococcal infection, such
as those without a spleen. Ask your doctor for more
- Last year in Iowa, pneumococcus caused serious infections in
more than 385 people. Pneumococcus causes approximately 40 percent
of bacterial ear infections.