Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Superbugs

(WEAU) - Last week, the centers for disease control and prevention issued a new report about drug resistant "superbugs".

CE: How many people are affected by drug resistant bacteria?

AA: About 2 million people a year become ill as a result of drug resistant bacteria and 23,000 die as a result.

CE: We've heard about drug resistant bacteria before. What is different about this report?

AA: This is a problem the medical community has known about for some time, but this report presented a snapshot of the current situation of antibiotic resistance in our country and ranked various resistant bacteria based on how much they threaten human well-being.

CE: How do bacteria become resistant?

AA: Bacteria can become resistant as they evolve. Some ways include spontaneous changes in the genetic material and swapping genetic material with other bacteria, making them resistant as well. Also, when antibiotics are given, they may kill the good bacteria that normally live in our bodies. As a result, the resistant ones are able to flourish.

CE: Where do people become exposed to these resistant bacteria?

AA: Most infections occur in the outpatient community setting, like skin infections with MRSA and sexually transmitted diseases. Infections can also occur in nursing homes and hospitals.

CE: What are some of the most concerning bacteria?

AA: Almost one quarter million resistant cases of gonorrhea occur yearly. Also, CRE bacteria are very concerning because they are resistant to all or nearly all antibiotics. About half of hospitalized patients who get bloodstream infections from this kind of bacteria will die from the infection. The bacterium that causes C. difficile infections is naturally resistant to many antibiotics used to treat other infections. It kills about 14,000 people yearly.

CE: What are some suggestions to reduce the risk?

AA: Careful use of antibiotics is key. Only take antibiotics prescribed for you, for a specific illness, and take as directed. We prescribe lots of antibiotics in our country for people and animals. We need to try to save them for only when they are really needed.

CE: Besides taking antibiotics carefully, any other tips?

AA: Help avoid infections in the first place by staying up to date on standard recommended vaccinations. Good hygiene helps to avoid disease from resistant bacteria. Wash your hands before eating or after using the restroom. Safe food handling helps too. Make sure meat is thoroughly cooked and wash your hands after touching uncooked meat.

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