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Antibiotic Resistance: What You Need to Know

In 2009, nine-year-old Brock Wade spent a month in the hospital trying to recover from a simple leg scrape. A year prior, a patient came dangerously close to death after a routine biopsy. In 2017, a U.S. woman died from a basic infection.

The culprit? Antibiotic resistance. Horizontal gene transfer allows bacteria to “teach” other infections to become immune, resulting in a generation of incurable superbugs. Overuse of antibiotics gives bacteria a competitive edge, and experts are now recommending limited use.

The Overenthusiastic Prescription Pad

Doctors prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics in emergencies for excellent reasons. Without the luxury of time, a cure-all drug can save a life. However, many doctors not only choose broad spectrum drugs over narrower treatments for minor ailments, but even for viruses that don’t respond to these drugs at all.

What Next?

Worried parents are right to seek treatment for children who are feverish or ill. Untreated bacterial infections can cause lifelong disability or death, so don’t just assume your kid will fight it out on their own. Instead, visit your pediatrician for a diagnosis, voicing your concerns both about the symptoms and about treatment options. You can also fight antibiotic resistance in the following ways:

  • Just completing your course of antibiotics goes a long way towards avoiding resistance.
  • When an infection isn’t life-threatening, wait for laboratory tests to make informed decisions about which narrow spectrum treatment to choose.
  • Use dairy and meat from farms that don’t overuse antibiotics.
  • Avoid anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners. They’re entirely unnecessary outside hospitals.

Mankind evolved over millions of years. Your average bacteria can evolve to resist new drugs in a matter of hours. Perhaps your child will become the medical researcher who figures out how to avert superbug epidemics. Until then, use antibiotics correctly.

Posted in Blog on March 17th, 2017