Antibiotic Resistance—Down to the Last Straw

Antibiotic resistance, which I blog about often, is one of the major problems facing the medical world today. Earlier this year, you may have heard about a pathogenic bacteria that struck at University of Virginia Medical Center, a National Institutes of Health hospital, killing seven people. This bacteria was found to be resistant to carbapenem antibiotics—the last antibiotic left to fight the bacteria. That’s not good news.

Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriacea (CRE) is a family of bacteria resistant to carbapenems. A recent USA TODAY article stated that there have been thousands of CRE cases throughout the country in recent years. “They show up as everything from pneumonia to intestinal and urinary tract infections,” noted the report. Yet they have received little or no attention.

The death rate from a CRE infection is up to 40%, far exceeding MRSA or C. difficile infections. While the infection has only been found to occur in hospital and nursing home settings so far, experts are concerned that it could extend out into the community where it would be more difficult to control.

In medical centers in which CRE infections have emerged, measures are being taken to prevent the spread of the infection, and to determine how and from where the infection spreads. Unfortunately, new antibiotics are not on the horizon because they tend to lose their potency before the antibiotic earns a profit. That is, the pathogenic bacteria are developing resistance faster than we are developing medications against them. That’s more bad news.

When it comes to antibiotic resistance, it’s vital that we do not take unnecessary antibiotics. Antibiotic overuse is one of the main reasons for antibiotic resistance. Further, we must get antibiotics out of our foods! Many animals are given antibiotics preventatively to ward off illness and to plump up. These practices need to stop. Try to avoid antibiotic-treated foods, such as poultry or eggs. This is a good place to start. Do what you can and help spread the word.

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