IL Expert: Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs a Growing Threat
PHOTO: Antibiotics save lives, but medical experts say their overuse has led to the development of resistant bacteria, making antibiotics ineffective in treating certain conditions. Photo: antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA bacteria). Credit: Public Health Image Library.
November 19, 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Antibiotic resistance is a growing threat to Americans' health, and health-care leaders in Illinois are urging patients and doctors to learn more about proper antibiotic use during this "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week." At least 23,000 Americans die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections, according to numbers from the Centers for Disease Control. The director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, LaMar Hasbrouck, said bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics, resulting in dangerous infections or in "superbugs" that don't respond to available treatment.
"Well, that concern is that after a while, our arsenal is going to be down to very little so there's going to be a lot of bugs out there, bacterial infections primarily, that we just can't treat," he warned.
Hasbrouck said that in Illinois, there have been a number of measures implemented to work with county health leaders to increase education among providers about proper antibiotic-prescribing practices. He said prevention is also a critical part of the situation, and includes proper hand-washing, especially for those in medical facilities.
Hasbrouck explained that antibiotics work to cure bacterial infections and do not work against viral infections such as colds or flu. But, he said, many patients still believe they are needed for a cough, runny nose or sore throat ... and an estimated 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed are not needed.
"I think that the problem squarely lies with the health-care providers prescribing antibiotics excessively, and with consumer desire," he declared. "Most consumers, when they're sick and they have a cold or flu, they come in and they want an antibiotic, they don't feel like they are being treated unless they have an antibiotic."
But it's not just a "people problem." The non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals has also been linked to the increase in antibiotic resistance.
The CDC is tracking antibiotic-resistant infections, offering incentives for the development of new antibiotics, and educating the agriculture industry on the proper use of the drugs.