ATLANTA, Ga. (WRBL) — Nov. 18 through Nov. 24 is World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, according to World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Jayne Morgan, executive director of health and community education at Piedmont Healthcare, shared her knowledge of antimicrobial resistance with WRBL.

“So antimicrobial resistance really occurs when germs like bacteria or fungi, they change over time and develop the ability to resist the medicines that were really designed to target them,” Morgan said.

Antimicrobial resistance makes infections harder or impossible to treat and can even lead to death, she explained.

In the last few years, Morgan said, doctors and other healthcare workers across the country have been trying to reserve antibiotic prescriptions for patients who truly need them.

“All doctors are sort of participating in this good stewardship program where… prescribe antibiotics, obviously, if you need them, but think about it before you prescribe it,” she said.

Certain antibiotics have been developed to target specific organisms. Morgan said responsible doctors aim to only prescribe these when the organism is present in a patient.

A patient should take antibiotics as prescribed, Morgan said. But the more antibiotics are used, the higher the risk of antimicrobial resistance developing.

Healthcare-associated infections are a major variety of antimicrobial resistance, she said.

“And we see that these are, these types of infections, meaning that you may actually get the infection while you’re hospitalized,” Morgan said. “They tend to disproportionately impact pregnant women, older adults, people with weakened immune systems and also people of color, as well.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that antibiotic-resistant infections in general disproportionately affect young children, men who have sex with men and groups of people who have historically experienced obstacles based on race or ethnicity.

“CDC estimates that at least 30% of antibiotics prescribed in the outpatient setting are unnecessary, meaning that no antibiotic was needed at all,” says CDC. “Total inappropriate antibiotic use, inclusive of unnecessary use and inappropriate selection, dosing and duration, may approach 50% of all outpatient antibiotic use.”

While human use of antibiotics is a major driver of antimicrobial resistance, the phenomenon can also take place in farm animals given antibiotics.

“In some countries, approximately 80% of total consumption of medically important antibiotics is in the animal sector, largely for growth promotion in healthy animals,” says WHO.