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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e46505. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046505. Epub 2012 Dec 7.

When does overuse of antibiotics become a tragedy of the commons?

Author information

1
Francis I. Proctor Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Over-prescribing of antibiotics is considered to result in increased morbidity and mortality from drug-resistant organisms. A resulting common wisdom is that it would be better for society if physicians would restrain their prescription of antibiotics. In this view, self-interest and societal interest are at odds, making antibiotic use a classic "tragedy of the commons".

METHODS AND FINDINGS:

We developed two mathematical models of transmission of antibiotic resistance, featuring de novo development of resistance and transmission of resistant organisms. We analyzed the decision to prescribe antibiotics as a mathematical game, by analyzing individual incentives and community outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS:

A conflict of interest may indeed result, though not in all cases. Increased use of antibiotics by individuals benefits society under certain circumstances, despite the amplification of drug-resistant strains or organisms. In situations where increased use of antibiotics leads to less favorable outcomes for society, antibiotics may be harmful for the individual as well. For other scenarios, where a conflict between self-interest and society exists, restricting antibody use would benefit society. Thus, a case-by-case assessment of appropriate use of antibiotics may be warranted.

PMID:
23236344
PMCID:
PMC3517551
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0046505
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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