Therapeutic antibiotic use in humans is a significant driver of antibiotic resistance. The seasonal effect of antibiotic use on antibiotic resistance has been poorly quantified because of lack of large-scale, spatially disaggregated time-series data on antibiotic use and resistance.

We used time-series analysis (Box–Jenkins) on US antibiotic usage from IMS Health and on antibiotic resistance from The Surveillance Network from 1999–2007 to estimate the effect of outpatient usage on resistance of Escherichia coli to drugs in major therapeutic classes. We also quantified the effect of prescriptions on resistance of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

We found that large-scale usage of antibiotics can generate seasonal patterns of resistance that fluctuate on a short time scale with changes in antibiotic retail sales, suggesting that use of antibiotics in the winter could have a significant effect on resistance. In addition, the strong correlation between community use of antibiotics and resistance isolated in the hospital indicates that restrictions imposed at the hospital level are unlikely to be effective unless coordinated with campaigns to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use at the community level.

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Lova Sun
Eili Y Klein
Ramanan Laxminarayan
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