Posted on Feb 13, 2017, 6 a.m.
Antibiotic misuse is a primary cause of the rise of superbugs gobally, but there is hope.
Misuse of antibiotics is causing an influx of superbugs worldwide. The death of a woman from Nevada raised alarms because it was a rare case of an untreatable infection. We are likely to hear more stories like this until strong measures are taken by health authorities. In a report on the subject, up to 10 million people yearly could die from these superbugs by 2050. So bad is the threat that the United Nations has issued a new initiative to help countries around the world. The program will raise awareness to public health workers and the general public in helping to mitigate the spread of antibiotic resistance superbugs.
Antibiotic Overuse Builds Bacteria Resistance
Overuse of antibiotic drugs let bacteria build resistance thus becoming superbugs. In the United States, patients in hospitals have a 1 in 7 chance of getting sick with a superbug, and half of outpatient antibiotic prescriptions are deemed unnecessary. Every year, two million people become sick with antibiotic resistant bacteria. One of the top drug-resistant bacteria causes diarrhea and is called C. difficile and its existence is the result of antibiotic overuse. This infection will kill over 15000 people every year.
What is more alarming is the fact that most feed animals (cows, pigs, and chickens) are fed low-dose antibiotics which are favorable to bacteria as they can adapt and mutate into superbugs that then threaten people.
Toolkits and guidelines are in the works to help hospitals assist health care workers in the fight against the superbugs. There is no known timeline for a cure for antibiotic-resistant bacteria and new antibiotic development is slow.
How to Stop Antibiotic Drug Abuse
A common abuse of antibiotics comes from patients who pressure their doctors for antibiotics. This is really unwarranted, and doctors are quick to prescribe the medications. The big problem is that in many of the cases, people who are sick are infected with a virus to which antibiotics have no effect (only on bacterial infections).
Patients need to be aware of the risks of infection while staying in hospitals. In a recent report from the CDC, an estimated 722,000 infections were acquired in acute care hospitals in the U.S. and of these 75,000 died of their infections. People must be vigilant and start playing an active role in reducing the risk of infections. Here are few recommendations for people who want to take an active role in combating antibiotic-resistant superbugs:
• If sick, ask a doctor to diagnose an infection before any antibiotic prescription
• When eating out at restaurants, ask for the availability of antibiotic-free meat
• If admitted to a hospital, ask health care workers if they have washed their hands before serving you needs
How to Better Utilize Antibiotics
In another report by the CDC, up to 50 percent of prescribed antibiotics at hospitals have been unnecessary. Health care workers must administer antibiotics to a patient with serious infections only. The abuse of antibiotics has created the superbug epidemic and the more they are misused or overused the less effective antibiotic treatments will be for patients who really need them.
A novel solution is to mandate an antibiotic stewardship program in hospitals to better utilize antibiotics where they are only needed. Another approach is to track the performance of hospitals to identify those that have higher than normal abuse of antibiotics and superbug cases. If both health care providers and patients join together in the battle against antibiotic misuse we can stem the tide of the super bugs.