The Rise of Antibiotic Resistant Infections
A critical tool for treating dangerous bacterial infections, antibiotics have become a source of controversy in recent years. While most people view the medications as a godsend, overuse has spawned especially dangerous organisms that are resistant to modern drugs. A recent report on a relatively new antibiotic-resistant infection has shed light on this disturbing trend, and sparked alarm throughout many communities.
Most people have become familiar with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), antibiotic-resistant bacteria that is much tougher to treat than most strains of staph. Now, another type of drug-resistant bacteria has begun making inroads in some major American cities, raising concern among health experts.
A class of common bacteria found in numerous everyday settings, Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) has become an especially worrisome problem for doctors, because it has developed a resistance to a key class of antibiotics that are considered the "drug of last resort" for such infections. Dubbed the new "superbug," CRE has killed nine percent of the people it has infected. What's worse, as many as 50 percent of CRE infections contribute to death if they result in bloodstream infections.
A Widespread Problem
The vast majority of CRE infections occur in hospitals; however, public health experts are concerned, because these organisms are also common in daily life.
Recent findings appear to validate these worries. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, surveillance of seven U.S. metropolitan areas found higher-than-expected levels of CRE in New York City, Baltimore and Atlanta. Right now, hospitals are already seeing more and more patients with E. coli kidney infection that do not respond to oral medications. If CRE infections continue to infiltrate communities and begin causing common urinary tract infections in otherwise healthy people, experts say the consequences will be significant, since there are currently no medications available to treat the bacteria.
What You Can Do
According to the CDC's study, the overall rate of CRE is low compared to the antibiotic-resistant bug MRSA. Still, CRE infections have become more common in a short amount of time, causing the agency to urge communities to implement programs and policies that prevent the spread from facility to community.
At the same time, the public can help prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections through handwashing, good hygiene and by using antibiotic medications only when necessary. If you are prescribed an antibiotic, it's also important to take all of the medication according to your doctor's instructions.