by Andy Pierron BSPharm R.Ph., Compass Community Health Care Center Director of Pharmacy Services
In March, the White House announced a five year plan regarding antibiotic resistant bacteria and a plan to deal with the threat. These bacteria are usually referred to as Superbugs by different media sources.
Antibiotics for the most part have been successful in preventing otherwise virulent infections (infections which are able to overcome the body’s defenses) from causing illness, suffering, and death since Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. However, the more antibiotics are used, the more bacteria exsist which have been left behind and have ways of surviving the antibiotic’s assault on them. Patients are always encouraged to complete antibiotics prescribed to reduce the amount of bacteria left behind. If the patient doesn’t complete the course, then the bacteria left standing are bacteria which have resisted the effects of the antibiotics. These resistant bacteria reproduce passing their antibiotic resistant gene on, possibly causing more virulent infections later.
Hospital acquired methicillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA) was the most common form of the superbugs twenty years ago and usually still is. Since that time, community acquired forms of MRSA have developed. Now, MRSA is found more often in communities and treatment has become more complicated as well as more expensive. Hospitalization or other ways of providing intravenous antibiotics is often necessary.
Hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical settings now battle different forms of antibiotic resistant bacteria on a more regular basis. E. Coli and Klebsiella have joined the ranks of “Superbugs” as they have become resistant. Clostridium difficile on occasion can show resistance to antibiotics. Even gonorrhea has become part of the problem. Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted germ which seemed prehistoric and was on its way to extinction a quarter of a century ago. `
Prevention keeps us and our community healthy. Use soap, but avoid bactericidal soaps. Bactericidal soaps promote bacteria resistance and are not more effective than thorough hand washing. Thorough hand washing with non bactericidal soap is important. Hand sanitizers are useful, but are not as effective as thorough hand washing.
Stay vaccinated! Vaccinated individuals get sick less often, take antibiotics less often, and are hospitalized less often. Encourage and support food sources which avoid the use of pesticides and antibiotics. Avoid risky behaviors which spread disease, such as unsafe sex and reusing needles. Get healthy. Seek counseling and medical care for addictions such as alcoholism and tobacco use. Moderate exercise and healthy eating reduces weight and reduces the development of disease, which increases the risk of complications such as infections requiring antibiotic therapy.