Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die each year as a result of these infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Most recently, the superbug known as Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), has been linked to two deaths at a hospital in California, with many others potentially being exposed to the deadly bacteria.
“Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a serious health issue here in the United States and abroad,” said Eddie Stenehjem, MD, infectious disease physician with Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. “Addressing the serious and even life-threatening nature of superbugs is going to take the efforts of everyone involved with infection control and antibiotic prescribing– from the doctor who prescribes antibiotics to the patient who takes them to the healthcare worker that provides care to these individuals.”
Antibiotics are life-saving drugs, but they are only meant to treat bacterial infections, not viral illnesses. If you are experiencing cold or flu-life symptoms you should talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how to relieve the symptoms, as opposed to using an antibiotic.
For example, most sore throats do not require antibiotic treatment. According to the CDC, only 1 in 5 children seen by a doctor for a sore throat has strep throat, which should be treated with an antibiotic. The only way a doctor can confirm strep throat is by running a test. Every time someone takes an antibiotic they don’t need, they increase their risk of developing a resistant infection in the future.
Patients who are properly prescribed an antibiotic also play a role in the possible development of superbugs. Too often, patients using an antibiotic stop taking the antibiotic once they “feel better.” This dangerous practice can allow the bacteria to build resistance to the antibiotic drug.
“Doctors hold the responsibility of properly prescribing antibiotics to their patients when appropriate,” said Dr. Stenehjem. “When properly prescribed, the patient holds the responsibility of completing the required doses. These two very important practices will play a vital role in preventing the creation of superbugs, thus increasing the effectiveness of antibiotics in fighting infections."