I would like to talk about “superbug” infections today. Superbugs are new strains of bacteria that we have no antibiotics to treat. There has been some recent media attention to report the troublesome growing number of superbugs from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has identified eight strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria to date. Two of the strains have been brought back with injured soldiers from the Middle East. Most of the remaining six bacteria have been among us and part of our environment for a very long time, and have now mutated to be resistant to any of our existing antibiotics, such as MRSA (Staph) and Tuberculosis.
The substantiated reasons for these emerging strains of bacteria is antibiotic use in producing the foods we eat and the use of antibiotics by providers when not indicated. Meat and by-products, like eggs and milk, from animals fed antibiotics is one contributing factor.
Viruses cannot be treated with antibiotics, but the common treatment for many years when a patient is seen by a provider was to give an antibiotic. As a result, patients now come to the doctor expecting an antibiotic when there is no indication for one, and feel that a provider is not giving good care based on that expectation. However, an antibiotic given for a secondary infection to a virus is appropriate.
While most of these infections are limited to hospitals and nursing homes we know from history they will often find a way into the community. As always, frequent hand washing, finishing a course of a prescribed antibiotic and not asking for an antibiotic when you merely have the latest virus in your community, are all ways for any of us to contribute to slowing the resistance. The most vulnerable are infants, chronically ill, elderly and immune suppressed, with the balance of the community being informed with the importance of preventative care practices.
Nancy Baaske, RN
Director of Nursing and Quality Assurance