The current hospital outbreak of superbug carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) connected to the death of two patients at a UCLA hospital is unnerving some patients scheduled to undergo the same procedure in other hospitals as well. CNN reported on Thursday, February 19, 2015 that the infection was caused by medical endoscopes or duodenoscopes manufactured by Olympus, which the FDA reportedly admits “cause challenges for cleaning and high-level disinfection.” The hospital has contacted other 179 patients who had undergone the same procedure from October 2014 to January 2015.
For almost a century now the medical profession has been using antibiotics to combat and control bacteria that make people sick. But in recent years these antibiotics seem to have lost their power to destroy some of the bacteria. The way these antibiotics have been used sometimes seems to have contributed in the creation of drug-resistant bacteria which we now know as superbugs. Superbugs are strains of bacteria that have developed the ability to resist many forms of antibiotics. The CDC claims that each year 2 million people are infected with a drug-resistant bacteria of some sort and 23,000 of them die due to the infection- in the United States alone.1
Antibiotics are among the most common types of medicinal drugs prescribed by clinicians to their patients. Sometimes antibiotics are given to livestock for disease prevention and for growth stimulation. But these antibiotics are not always a necessary treatment regimen, and their over-use as well as misuse ends up creating drug-resistant bacteria. Sometimes people take antibiotics when they come down with the flu, but antibiotics cannot destroy the flu-causing virus. They are not able to fight a viral infection. In these cases, the antibiotics only succeed in destroying a wide variety of bacteria in the body including the ‘good’ bacteria that help with the digestive process and general well-being. But some types of bacteria are tough enough to survive this form of “treatment.” They seize this as an opportunity to grow stronger and to multiply. Sometimes they even spread to other people.
As more people continue to take unnecessary antibiotics, the bacteria become more and more drug-resistant and spread, and may even share their drug-resistant characteristics or traits with other bacteria, making them stronger still while the antibiotics become less and less efficacious.
This places a responsibility on each one of us to take antibiotics only when necessary and in a manner prescribed by the healthcare provider. It is important to refrain from insisting on antibiotics against the advice of a provider.
1 National Institutes of Health (2014). Stop the Spread of Superbugs. http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/feb2014/feature1