Antibiotic Apocolypse: The Rise of The Superbug

In 2013 the Center for Disease Control released a landmark report: Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013 (PDF).

The report gives a bleak picture of our current antibiotic problems.

If folks don’t stop demanding and clinicians don’t stop prescribing antibiotics for every cold, earache, cough, or other illness that is likely viral, we won’t have any effective antibiotics left!

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The consequences of this is catastrophic.

Imagine our world run amuck with superbugs that cannot be killed. These bugs become armed militants capable of mutating and altering their defenses against anything thrown at them, making them more virulent, more deadly. This is not science fiction. Antibiotic resistance is not a potential problem of the future, it is here and now, present day.

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The CDC conservatively estimates that in the US alone, two million people a year get sick with antibiotic-resistant infections, and 23,000 die from their infection.

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I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.
I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Are we too late?  Has the overuse of antibiotics by prescribers and patients caused irreversible repercussions? Yeah, probably.

But with education and action by every one of us, we can help our situation from getting even worse.

What can we do?

CDC’s Dr. Frieden proposes a four-part solution:

  • Preventing infections from occurring and spreading:
    through immunization, hand washing, proper food preparation
  • Tracking resistant bacteria (CDC’s role)
  • Improve antibiotic prescribing/stewardship. This commitment to always use antibiotics appropriately and safely—only when they are needed and to choose the right ones and administer/take in the right way in every case—is known as antibiotic stewardship.
  • Promote development of new antibiotics and tests for diagnosing resistant bacteria.

Important take-aways:

-The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance.

50% of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not optimally effective.

Simply using antibiotics creates resistance.

As antibiotic resistance grows, the antibiotics used to treat infections do not work as well or at all.

When someone takes an antibiotic that they do not need, they are needlessly exposed to the side effects of the drug and do not get any benefit from it.

Every time someone takes an antibiotic they don’t need,
they increase their risk of developing a resistant infection in the future.

When a person takes antibiotics, good bacteria that protect against infection are destroyed for several months.

Stopping even some of the inappropriate and unnecessary use of antibiotics in people and animals would help greatly in slowing down the spread of resistant bacteria

Remember, most illnesses resolve on their own, and very few truly require antibiotic treatment.

Let’s fight this war together and agree to be good antibiotic stewards. Otherwise, we risk being destroyed by mercenaries who are capable of assembling their army on a single grain of salt.

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Published by

Kathy

I've been a Family Nurse Practitioner since 1991. My most memorable patient was Meinhardt Raabe, the Munchkin Coroner from the Wizard of Oz. I now practice in Addiction Medicine and recently published Hepatitis C Quick Start: A guide for the clinician.

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