Concerns about “Superbugs” aren’t going away
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Antibiotic resistance is a growing world health crisis that could turn simple infections into deadly ones.
Medical experts say if we don’t get a handle on antibiotics right now, we could be looking at more “superbugs” in the future that can’t be treated.
If you’ve ever been treated for a bacterial infection, such as strep throat or pneumonia, you’re probably familiar with the term “Z-Pak.” At one point it was the most commonly prescribed antibiotic in the U.S.
But Dr. Michael Pulia, director of emergency care in the infectious disease research program at U.W. Health, says that has changed because of antibiotic resistance.
“Used to be totally fine to use the Z-Pak for pneumonia, and now you can’t do that alone because it’s just not effective anymore,” Pulia told us.
Pulia says over time antibiotics become less effective at treating bacterial infections because bacteria adapt and mutate.
“It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of time. And sort of how much we’re using the antibiotic is going to put pressure on that, to drive that resistance development over time.”
Pulia says overuse and misuse are putting other antibiotics at risk of becoming less effective, too.
Combine that with a lack of new antibiotics being discovered or created, and Dr. Pulia says it’s alarming.
“The fear that they’ve talked about in a lot of the national WHO and CDC reports is, they call it the ‘post-antibiotic era,’ which is absolutely terrifying. So that would mean that if somebody’s got like a simple infection after a routine surgery, that could be fatal, because we no longer have antibiotics to treat that or to prevent infections during surgeries.”
While researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison and U.W.-Green Bay continue to look for new solutions, Dr. Pulia says you can do something, too. Ask questions the next time you’re prescribed antibiotics. Yes, they may be necessary, but you can still ask about dosage and duration.
“‘Is this the most narrow spectrum antibiotic that I could be receiving for disinfection? Is there any alternative treatments? Could we wait and see how I do, and if I improve maybe I don’t need it?’ And so there’s some really important conversations that need to be had between patients and their providers around antibiotics, and just sort of, I just want to empower people to have that conversation and to bring it up and feel that it’s OK to ask.”
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