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Some Prisoners Misuse Antibiotic Ointments: Study

Last Updated: June 05, 2012.

Using topical medicines for grooming could lead to drug-resistant bacteria, researchers say.

TUESDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) -- Inmates at two maximum-security prisons in New York state are overusing antibiotic ointments, which may worsen the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the facilities, a new study reports.

Researchers interviewed 421 male and 401 female inmates at the prisons over two years and found that many overuse and misuse over-the-counter antibiotic ointments.

Specifically, the study found that the products were used by: 29 percent of men and 28 percent of women for dry skin; 18 percent of men and 15 percent of women as lip balm; 8 percent of men and 3 percent of women as hair grease; and 6 percent of men for shaving.

The findings, scheduled to be presented Tuesday at a meeting of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), in San Antonio, Texas, show the need to educate prisoners about the appropriate use of antibiotic ointments, the Columbia University researchers said.

"Alternative products, such as lotion and ointments that do not contain antibiotics, are available to inmates, so this comes down to more awareness and better education for this group of people," study author Carolyn Herzig, a doctoral candidate, said in an association news release.

The misuse and overuse of antibiotics can lead to the development of multidrug-resistant bacteria, which cause a large number of the serious infections that occur in hospital patients.

"Antimicrobial resistance is a growing public health concern both inside and outside of health care settings," APIC president Michelle Farber said in the news release. "Ms. Herzig's research highlights the need for education of all audiences about the prudent use of antibiotics, since multidrug-resistant organisms pose significant risk to patient safety in many different settings, including correctional facilities."

The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about antibiotic resistance.

SOURCE: Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, news release, June 4, 2012

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