Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) released a
report on what it is calling the "
phantom menace"-a new superbug that could become a threat.
Although the carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriacae (CRE) is not
yet something we need to worry greatly about, it is something that
infectious disease experts are closely watching.
Superbugs belonging to the CRE family are known to be resistant to most
antibiotics. The "phantom menace"--given its moniker because it
isn't easily detected--is actuallyless antibiotic resistant than
some other more common CREs. Nevertheless, it remains a concern
even if it is resistant to only certain types of antibiotics, says
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist and
professor of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical
Center in Nashville, because such resistance to any antibiotics
limits treatment options.
Antibiotics have regularly been used for the past 70 years to
treat infectious diseases. They can be credited with "greatly
reduc[ing] illness and death from infectious diseases," according
to the CDC.
The problem is that because these antibiotics have been used,
the infectious organisms have adapted, making the antibiotics
designed to kill them less effective--hence the term "antibiotic
In the United State alone, there are
2 million antibiotic resistant infections that cause 23,000 deaths
each year. It is possible that wide spread use of antibiotics
has led to
"evolutionary pressure on bugs to mutate and become
Before you go running to your underground bunker to hide from
the superbug (which, let's face it, is just one of many things you
may want to be hiding in a bunker from these days), one of your
most effective tools against a threat like this is good old
The World Health
Organization released a
report last month showing widespread misunderstanding among the
public regarding antibiotic resistance. Here's a snapshot of
information from that report to help you better understand how this
all works (or doesn't work).
- You need to take ALL of your prescribed
antibiotics. According to the report, 32 percent of people
surveyed thought they should stop taking antibiotics once they
start feeling better. In reality, you should take your full dose as
prescribed because not doing so might mean the infection is not
treated fully, enhancing the risk of antibiotic resistance among
- Antibiotic resistance means the bacteria is resistant,
NOT you. A whopping 76 percent of people surveyed believe
that antibiotic resistance happens when the body becomes resistant
to the antibiotics. In fact, antibiotic resistance happens when the
infection is resistant to the antibiotics.
- Anyone can get an infection that is resistant to
antibiotics. The survey revealed that almost half of
respondents thought only people who use antibiotics regularly are
at risk for antibiotic resistance. This ties into the bullet above.
The resistance is to the infection, NOT the person.
- Antibiotics can NOT treat colds or the flu.
Colds and the flu are caused by viruses. Antibiotics are made to
treat infections caused by bacteria, not viruses. Taking
antibiotics for colds or the flu can result in resistance
- You're not powerless to fight antibiotic
resistance. Take your antibiotics as prescribed, don't
share antibiotics, don't ask for antibiotics if your doctor doesn't
recommend them, and make sure you're up to date on your