Antimicrobial Stewardship

Montana DPHHS works closely with the Montana Antimicrobial Stewardship Collaborative (ABS). The Montana ABS Collaborative is a group effort to create a statewide Antimicrobial Stewardship Program (ASP) implementation plan. Their goal is to collaborate, assist and offer resources, expertise and tools through multiple programs for use by Montana inpatient and outpatient facilities.

Montana Antibiogram Data


The Problem

In the United States 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths are caused by antimicrobial-resistant organisms each year. This is one of the most pressing public health threats in the US. The president convened leaders from pharmacy, medical, infectious disease, laboratory, agriculture, food distributors, and others to create a National Action Plan to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

Microbes (germs) that cause human and animal diseases have developed the ability to resist the killing effects of antibiotics. Everyone is at risk of being sick with a bacterial infection that is resistant to antibiotics. These types of infections are hard to get rid of and require other treatments that are sometimes costly and toxic. Twenty-five laboratories throughout Montana have been submitting specific bacterial samples (including Staph. aureus) to the Montana Public Health Laboratory.

A common antibiotic resistant microbe in Montana is Methicillin Resistant Staph. aureus (MRSA). Although rare, some forms of tuberculosis and gonorrhea in the United States are also resistant to different classes of antibiotics. These infections are especially hard to cure and are generally called multi-drug resistant organisms.

The causes of antibiotic resistant bacteria are numerous. Sometimes, this happens when people take antibiotics differently how than the physician prescribed, or when people take antibiotics when they are not needed.

Antibiotics are not needed to treat illnesses caused by viruses. The common cold is caused by a virus. Most coughs, bronchitis, runny noses, and sore throats (not caused by strep) are not caused by bacteria and cannot be cured by using antibiotics.

Click here for frequently asked questions and answers about antibiotic resistance.

Illness after Taking Antibiotics

Unfortunately, antibiotics can cause harm by eliminating the ‘good’ bacteria from the body. When the good bacteria are eliminated, patients sometimes become infected with Clostridium difficile which is also difficult to treat and causes severe illness. In the US last year, C. difficile caused over 14,000 deaths.

What is Montana doing?

The communicable disease healthcare associated infection program has expanded its scope of work to include surveillance of and outbreak control of antibiotic resistant organisms in healthcare settings. Partnered with the Montana Public Health Laboratory we identify microorganisms considered a threat, help healthcare facilities look for other cases, and work with them to stop transmission within the facility.

Our main goals to address antibiotic resistance are:

  • Provide training to local health departments to address antibiotic resistance issues in healthcare facilities
  • Improve testing for antibiotic susceptibility at MT Public Health Lab
  • Educate Montana laboratories to submit specimens with high resistance patterns to MT Public Health Lab for further testing in a timely fashion
  • Monitor microorganisms considered a threat in Montana by place and time
  • Work with hospitals to start or strengthen Antibiotic Stewardship Programs to meet CDCs core elements
  • Work with state wide advisory group to determine state needs and how to address them
  • Offer training to hospital pharmacists to start and run an Antibiotic Stewardship Program.

Most recent information from Montana Public Health laboratory about antibiotic resistance.

More information on how to protect yourself

  • wash your hands after using the bathroom, after visiting a healthcare facility, and before eating to reduce you chance of getting sick and spreading your illness to others
  • take antibiotics only when needed (not for a cold, for example) and as prescribed
  • properly wash and cook food to prevent you and others from getting bacterial infections
  • Get you recommended vaccinations
  • Encourage healthcare workers to wash hands before and after touching you

What can healthcare workers do?

  • Follow good infection control and prevention processes which includes hand washing
  • Teach infected patients and visitors how to prevent spreading their infections
  • Participate in Antimicrobial Stewardship Program Activities
  • Get recommended vaccinations as part of Employee Health Program

CDC Vital Signs reportJoint Statement on Antibiotic Resistance from 25 National Health Organizations and CDC