Help Fight the Rise Of the Superbugs

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report that nearly twice as many Americans as previously thought are dying from drug-resistant infections.

This news alarmed Premier Health Now. So, we went to infectious disease specialist Matthew Bauer, DO, of Middletown Infectious Disease Associates, for his take.

He told us he’s not surprised. 

Except that he thinks the CDC’s adjusted estimates are low. The new report puts the count at more than 35,000 deaths and nearly 3 million illnesses each year – the result of "superbugs," bacteria that develop resistance to antibiotics. 

“I think the numbers are on the lower side. I would imagine that the numbers, if we were truly to catch all (cases of superbug infections), are much higher,” Dr. Bauer told us.

Why the Rise In Drug-Resistant Infections?

"A lot of it is antibiotic overuse or misuse, like using antibiotics unnecessarily, using the wrong type of antibiotics,” Dr. Bauer explains. 

“And these organisms are very quick to evolve and become resistant to these antibiotics.

“It’s like an evolutionary arms race. Every time we develop a new antibiotic, the organisms become resistant, so we’re always trying to find the next best antibiotic for some of these more serious infections. It would be nice if we could find one antibiotic that worked against everything.”

In the Meantime, What Can You Do?

“It falls not only on patients, but also health care providers, to make sure each antibiotic is used appropriately,” says Dr. Bauer.

As medical director of Atrium Medical Center’s Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, Dr. Bauer is on the front lines. The program promotes appropriate antibiotic use by health care providers to reduce microbial resistance, decrease the spread of drug-resistant infections, and improve patient outcomes. 

And here’s how you can help, Dr. Bauer says:

  • Take antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor. This includes taking the full prescription. Don’t stop just because you’re feeling better. Some bacteria could still be present – don’t give them a second chance.
  • Be aware that antibiotics are for bacterial infections. They don’t work against viral infections like the common cold or flu, though your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to fight a resulting secondary infection like bacterial pneumonia
  • Don’t use leftover antibiotics from your medicine cabinet. They may not be right for your current illness. See your health care provider.
  • Get appropriate vaccinations to avoid illness, such as the pneumococcal vaccine, to protect against pneumonia, or a flu shot, to cut your risk of flu and secondary bacterial complications.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often to avoid illness and spreading germs to others.

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Matthew D. Bauer, DO

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