Is bacteria becoming resistant to our use of antibiotics?

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Answered by: Julie, An Expert in the Vaccinations and Prevention Category
There's been a lot of rumbling and rousing about the drug-resistant staph — specifically methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Should you be worried? In the middle of October 2007, JAMA published a study concluding that more people are dying from MRSA than from a number of other high-death-count causes in America. The media jumped all over this conclusion stirring the American public into a frenetic paranoia of exposure.



While it's true that these bacteria do seem to be out of control within hospital and other healthcare settings, it is not the cause of a pandemic to the average American. The presence of drug-resistant bacteria within enclosed groups of individuals with weakened immune status is a bad combination, and it's a crisis situation that the healthcare community is frantically fighting to resolve.

As are all earthly species, bacteria are constantly evolving. Survival of the fittest still rules. With the prevalent use of antibiotics since their approval by the FDA, bacteria have had to rise to this challenge of survival. Antibiotics can be useful, but what disservice have we done ourselves by lessening their efficacy with over use?



Naturally, Staph has become resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics that used to be able to knock out these infections. Vancomycin is one of the few antibiotics, and only in some cases, that is still effective against Staph infections. This is a reality come to pass that scientists have been expecting for a long time. However, all hope is not lost. We still have options for staying healthy and warding off infection.

Staph is prevalent any day of the week. Any surface that has public exposure will gain some of these naturally occurring bacteria. Approximately 30% of the population is carrying the bacteria without experiencing any harm from it. It is when the bacteria gain access into the body via a wound, that they can then effectively cause a dangerous infection. The more compromised or week the immune system of the infected person to begin with, the more dangerous and potentially deadly the effect. Most of the cases of Staph causing harm and even death occur in hospitals and other healthcare settings where there is a larger community of immune-compromised individuals.

Again we are brought to focus on our immune systems. The severity of impact of an infection is directly connected to the strength of the individual’s immune system. Being aware of hygiene with hand washing, coughing or sneezing into a disposable tissue or your elbow, cleaning and bandaging wounds appropriately, and other practices of this nature will keep you protected from infection in general. Keeping your physical system fit with healthy maintenance will have your immune system at its ready best.

Staph is not new; however, the current spotlight gives us the opportunity to newly consider the consequences of today's decisions and the use of antibiotics. The media attention to these microorganisms will fade, but the bacteria will live on. Use common sense, healthy choices, and good hygiene to maintain an infection-free existence.

Resources:

Mayo Clinic – MRSA Infection ?http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mrsa/DS00735

FDA – Consumer Education: Antibiotics and Antibiotic Resistance ?http://www.fda.gov/cder/consumerinfo/antibiotics_text.htm

New York Times – Drug-Resistant Staph: What You Need to Know ?http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/drug-resistant-staph-what-you-need-to-know/

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