Antibiogram created to address antibiotic resistance
By Jan Stapleman | Office of Communications

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has completed Colorado’s first statewide antibiogram, a tool that tracks resistance to antibiotics. The antibiogram will help health care facilities track antibiotic resistance and put systems in place to counteract it. It also may help providers across the state select the best antibiotics to use in specific cases.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls antibiotic resistance “one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health.” For years, antibiotics have been overused and even used for illnesses they can’t treat, such as viral infections. As a result, some bacteria are developing ways to resist treatment. This means some illnesses that once were easy to treat with antibiotics are becoming untreatable, leading to dangerous infections that can cause serious disability or even death. 

Dr. Christopher Czaja, an infectious disease physician with the state health department, said the antibiogram was created with the support of the Colorado Hospital Association, Colorado Health Care Association, a health care quality improvement organization called Telligen, and local experts. Hospitals and other health care facilities throughout the state contributed the 2016 data used to create the statewide antibiogram. Although compiling the data was complicated because facilities track their data in varying ways, the large volume of reported data helped boost reliability.

 “I’m reassured by the large number of specimens reported, because that contributes to the integrity of the data,” Czaja said.

The antibiogram, which tracks success rates of a variety of antibiotics against specific bacteria, is organized by Colorado regions, larger counties, and in nursing homes in eastern Colorado. It helps health care providers determine the most appropriate antibiotic for a specific bacterial infection based on the antibiotic’s success rate, the overall health of the patient and other factors. It also promotes antibiotic stewardship by identifying emerging antibiotic resistance and preferred alternatives.

“It must be used in the context of other best practices,” Czaja said. “I’ll promote this information and solicit feedback on how it’s being used.”

The project was a priority of Dr. Wendy Bamberg, who manages the department’s Healthcare-Associated Infections Program. Czaja began leading the project when he came on board in late 2016, assisted by a temporary staff member, Navjot Kaur. 

The department first shared the completed antibiogram with contributing facilities, which provided positive feedback. Now the tracking tool is available on the department’s healthcare-associated infections data web page and is being disseminated widely by the department and its partners. 

The department’s Healthcare-Associated Infections Program also will use the antibiogram in education and training programs for physicians, nurses, nursing homes and hospitals. Czaja will use it in his work conducting assessments and developing programs for antibiotic stewardship in nursing homes and hospitals. 

The department plans to update the antibiogram yearly, and soon Czaja will send out a call for facilities to begin reporting 2017 data. He’s hopeful the tracking tool will increase the number of successful treatments with antibiotics and promote careful management of antibiotic use. 

“We need to continue to emphasize that antibiotic resistance is a public health threat, and stewardship is one of the best ways to counteract it,” he said.