Oh, Those Superbugs!

Common and serious infections are getting even harder to treat with all the bacteria, viruses and parasites that are able to survive some of the drugs we are using, like the basic antibiotics. These also include pneumonia. According to the World Health Organization they are in every country and if it keeps getting harder to prevent and treat these infections, it will affect things like chemotherapy and major surgery and become risky for tuberculosis, HIV and infections that can happen after surgery.

There are 800,000 sick each year and this is in every country. It is harder than ever to prevent and treat the infections, and even chemotherapy and major surgery can become very risky.

The most dangerous superbug found so far is clostridium difficile (C. diff). C. diff is a strain of bacteria that causes life-threatening diarrhea and is No. 1 on the list of urgent threats, according to the CDC. These drug-resistant infections cost about $20 billion in direct health care costs and $35 billion in lost productivity in the U.S. alone. Even using hand sanitizers can spread superbugs. These use alcohol, not antibiotics, to kill germs, but the CDC says soap and water is still the best way to keep your hands clean to avoid these superbugs.

About 30% of all antibiotic prescriptions written are not really needed. Quite often these prescriptions for antibiotics are written by the doctors for people who have illnesses that are caused by viruses like the common cold, sinus infections and ear infections. They only work on bacteria, so they aren’t really an effective treatment for those illnesses.

Bronchitis is caused by a virus and should never be treated with antibiotics. It won’t help and might actually contribute to the rise of a drug-resistant infection.

What is the best way to prevent superbugs? Just avoid infections altogether. Lowering the number of antibiotics that are used each year is the key to staying healthy. Be sure to keep your vaccines up to date and use safe practices when you’re cooking, and be sure to wash your hands before and after with soap and water. This will be the best way to keep drug-resistant bacteria from spreading. Make sure you finish all meds prescribed by your doctor, even if you are feeling better. Do not suggest you take an antibiotic to your doctor.

The resistance to antibiotics is a natural process where over time the bacteria that survive treatment by drugs can pass that ability on to other bacteria. This is happening faster than normal because of the things we do, like using antibiotics too often and giving them to livestock to enhance their growing. Farm animals are getting more antibiotics than people in the US. About 70% of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on livestock and could lead to drug-resistant bugs that can be passed to humans, according to scientists. A good number of the large companies in the food industry have agreed to use fewer antibiotics in their meat or to stop using them altogether.

Antibiotic resistance in bacteria was originally discovered in 1940 where the first case was a strain of the bacteria that causes staph infections. It was found resistant to penicillin. Alexander Fleming discovered the drug in 1928 and won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1945. He was already talking about the dangers of drug resistance.

Many common ailments can be treated with home remedies in lieu of taking high-powered antibiotics that just might cause more harm than good. Be observant of the antibiotics being given to you and keep those hands washed good with soap and water!

–Dr Fredda Branyon