Antibiotic Resistant Infections: A Growing Threat

October 16, 2013 / Michael M. Siegel, MD

Each year 2 million people acquire serious infections from bacteria that are resistant to the antibiotics that previously and successfully treated the problem. In addition, approximately 23,000 people die each year as a result of these antibiotic resistant infections.

The CDC recently published a report on antibiotic resistance threats – identifying those organisms that posed the most urgent and serious threats to the population. The report also noted that the single largest contributor to this problem is the overuse of antibiotics. In fact, it is estimated that over 50 percent of antibiotics that are prescribed are not necessary.

In addition to the overuse of antibiotics, another cause for increased resistance is the rapid spread from person to person of resistant bacteria. Once a drug resistant bacterium appears in a hospital, it can spread rapidly from patient to patient unless strict sterilization of equipment and good hand-washing rules are closely followed.

So what can we all do to help prevent the problem from getting worse? First, when you visit your physician please make sure he or she knows that you only want an antibiotic if it is absolutely necessary. Many people go to a doctor’s office when we have a cold, the flu or a sore throat expecting to walk out with a prescription for an antibiotic. However, the vast majority of these infections are due to viruses which will not respond to the medication.

The second thing you can do is if you are in a hospital receiving care, make sure that when any staff enter your room, they wash their hands before touching you or your equipment. Unfortunately, when rushed, some staff members forget this step and pass on bacteria from contact with a previous patient.

Each of us has a role to play in decreasing the threat of a future where antibiotics will not be effective. Make sure you do your part.

For more information, please visit the CDC website.

Category: Physical Health