RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Death by malaria or tuberculosis isn't something we generally worry about in this country, so news that these diseases are growing resistant to drugs may not seem all that alarming. But the truth is, the widespread overuse and abuse of antimicrobials—antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and other medicines—has caused many germs to mutate in a way that makes them hard to kill, even with some of our toughest meds. These superbug strains, including ones like MRSA, sicken or kill thousands of Americans each year, all while increasing healthcare costs. Antimicrobial-resistant infections often result in longer hospital stays and more expensive treatments. To raise awareness of the growing superbug threat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) last month selected antimicrobial resistance as the topic for World Health Day. In fact, the WHO warned that many infectious diseases risk becoming uncontrollable, meaning we could return to an era without effective antibiotics unless we stop the overuse of antibiotics and researchers develop new treatments.
THE DETAILS: Many drug-resistant germs are popping up in communities and in hospitals and long-term healthcare facilities. Earlier this spring, the LA Times reported on the emergence of a carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae, or CRKP, an antibiotic-resistant infection in healthcare settings that can cause bloodstream, wound, or surgical site infections, or even pneumonia or meningitis. Other studies have found this infection, which has limited treatments, leads to death in 40 percent of those infected.
Last year, researchers discovered that an emerging, virulent strain of E. coli, known as ST131, is close to becoming an untreatable superbug.