Penicillin was considered a “miracle” drug when it was first discovered. But even Alexander Fleming warned that misuse of it might lead to antibiotic resistant bacteria. He was correct. We have grossly misused it in every way possible. And now we are paying the highest price possible. Antibiotic resistant infections are becoming a global, life-threatening problem.
Yesterday I was reading an article in Prevention magazine when a startling statistic made me stop mid-sentence. I re-read it…and re-read it. Then I went to my computer and Googled other sources. Confirmation only made the facts worse:
The CDC has determined that “Every year 2 million people in America get infections that are resistant to antibiotics and 23,000 of them die. “
Anti-biotic resistance has now become a major health issue of 2014 and one that should concern each and every one of us, especially parents of young children.
If you are thinking MRSA, think again. While MRSA still exists, it is becoming more preventable and manageable. There are other more frightening infections out there- moving from person to person, hospital to hospital and country to county. Familiarize yourself now with carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CREs, and expect to hear more about them.
We have brought this menace on ourselves because of ignorance. There are basically two things that make us sick: viruses and bacteria. (I know that is a simplified version, but we don’t really need to discuss the difference between infection and disease, or fungi, protozoa, parasites or other topics today. I’m not a doctor!)
The common cold, influenza, measles, bronchitis, and chickenpox are caused by viruses.
Strep throat, TB, and most ear infections are caused by bacteria.
We can’t treat viruses with antibiotics, yet patients, especially parents of young children, continue to insist on doing just that. Many people routinely ask for antibiotics every time they have a sniffle. When the antibiotics don’t work they simply ask for more, thinking that they just have taken them long enough. This is from the CDC website:
Antibiotic use promotes development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant germs may be left to grow and multiply. Repeated and improper uses of antibiotics are primary causes of the increase in drug-resistant bacteria. While antibiotics should be used to treat bacterial infections, they are not effective against viral infections like the common cold, most sore throats, and the flu. Widespread use of antibiotics promotes the spread of antibiotic resistance. Smart use of antibiotics is the key to controlling the spread of resistance.
It has been thirty or forty years since I’ve taken antibiotics. But I did spend many years eating meat, and agricultural use of antibiotics is also of concern to health officials. Animals are routinely given antibiotics to promote growth and prevent diseases. This is especially true in the poultry industry where animals are raised in huge flocks. It is virtually impossible to treat individual animals, so antibiotics are put into their drinking water. Studies are being conducted to determine how this affects humans, but that’s a topic for another day.
My point for today is for you to curb the misuse of antibiotics by becoming more informed. You can begin by reading more about this on the CDC website.