Superbugs Take Over: Are Hospitals Losing the Battle?

Every five and a half minutes, an American loses their life to a hospital-acquired infection that cannot be treated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, this problem is much worse than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has initially reported. Additionally, attempts by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to promote the development of new and improved antibiotics have done little to protect the public. Experts maintain that antibiotic resistance in hospital-acquired infections is now at crisis levels.

The FDA’s Failed “Reboot”

A commentary piece in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy pointed out that the FDA’s “reboot” to encourage the development of new antibiotics to fight resistance “cannot come too soon” but “will not be enough.” Antibiotic-resistant microbes infect over 2 million Americans each year, killing more than 100,000. As a result, experts caution that new measures must be taken to combat the increasing threat of deadly superbugs.

Dr. Brad Spellberg, an infectious disease specialist at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed), asserts that the rise in antibiotic resistance among common forms of hospital-acquired infections greatly exceeds the rates reported by the CDC based on older data. Consequently, it would be unwise to rely solely on the FDA’s “reboot” efforts as a solution.

To stimulate antibiotic development, the pharmaceutical industry must see a potential return on its investment. Unfortunately, none of the antibiotics presently being developed can effectively combat the various antibiotic-resistant infections that are causing a significant number of fatalities.

Overhauling Our Approach to Antibiotic Resistance

Experts suggest that a complete reexamination of our approach to antibiotic resistance, disease prevention, and treatment is necessary in order to reverse the alarming upward trend in antibiotic-resistant infections. If we continue to rely on inadequate measures, we may be forced to return to a “bleak post-antibiotic future” in which infectious diseases prevail.

So, what can be done to avoid this dark outlook? There are multiple strategies, not only for hospitals and government agencies, but also for individuals to consider.

Strategic Approach for Hospitals and Government Agencies

  1. Promote antibiotic stewardship: Hospitals should implement strict policies to ensure antibiotics are only prescribed when absolutely necessary. Healthcare providers should be educated on the appropriate use of antibiotics and should closely monitor their patients for signs of antibiotic resistance. The CDC’s Antibiotic Stewardship Program provides guidelines for this approach.
  2. Strengthen infection prevention and control: Healthcare facilities should establish rigorous hygiene protocols for staff, patients, and visitors to prevent the spread of infections. Investing in advanced technologies for aseptic procedures, proper hand hygiene, and thorough cleaning can help curb the spread of superbugs.
  3. Invest in research and development: Government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry should collaborate to fund research focused on discovering new treatments for antibiotic-resistant infections. The development of new antibiotics must be prioritized, and alternative treatments, such as phage therapy or immunotherapy, should also be explored.
  4. Educate the public: Public awareness campaigns should be created to inform people about the risks of antibiotic resistance and emphasize the importance of proper antibiotic use. Individuals should understand the dangers of not finishing a prescribed course of antibiotics, sharing medication, or using antibiotics for viral infections.

Personal Measures to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

  1. Practice good hygiene: Washing your hands regularly and properly, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and avoiding close contact with sick people can help you stay healthy and prevent the spread of infections.
  2. Vaccinate: Make sure to keep up-to-date with recommended vaccinations. Not only do vaccines protect you from certain diseases, but they also help decrease the need for antibiotics.
  3. Take antibiotics as prescribed: If you are prescribed antibiotics, make sure you follow your healthcare provider’s directions and complete the full course of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better. This helps ensure that the infection is completely eradicated and reduces the chances of resistance developing.
  4. Don’t pressure your healthcare provider for antibiotics: Understand that antibiotics should be prescribed only when necessary and don’t demand them for viral infections like colds or the flu.

By working together – healthcare professionals, government agencies, and individuals – we can adopt a more effective and comprehensive approach to combat the concerning crisis of antibiotic resistance. This presses the need to encourage and facilitate research into new treatment options and to adopt new preventive strategies to protect patients and the public from the rising threat of antibiotic-resistant infections.