The Sneaky Superbugs Hiding Where You Least Expect Them

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming a significant and growing health concern. This issue arises when bacterial infections are no longer curable by antibiotics, leaving conventional medicine with few options to treat them. Research finds that antibiotic resistance is spreading, appearing in areas and circumstances where it was once considered unlikely.

Antibiotic Resistance in Children and Wildlife

Recent studies have shown that antibiotic resistance is increasingly prevalent in children and wildlife populations. Lance Price, a professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University, explains, “Microbes connect the planet. The danger is that we enter a post-antibiotic era in which even our last-line drugs won’t work and routine infections become life-threatening.”

At Tufts University, researchers at the veterinary school discovered antibiotic-resistant bacteria quickly spreading among crow populations. Researcher Julie Ellis says, “We’ve documented human-derived drug resistance where it shouldn’t be — in wildlife and the environment. But we know very little about how this may impact public health.”

Additionally, the probiotic bacteria in children’s digestive tracts have been found to harbor antibiotic resistance. Gautam Dantas at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis cites the frequency of antibiotics prescribed to children as the main cause. “From birth to age 5, children receive more antibiotics than during any other five-year time span in their lives,” says Dantas. “Frequent exposure to antibiotics accelerates the spread of antibiotic resistance. Our research highlights how important it is to only use these drugs when they are truly needed.”

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause more significant health-related issues, as infections may be more difficult to treat, posing a threat to individuals and resulting in increased healthcare costs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that antibiotic-resistant infections lead to a minimum of 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses each year in the United States, contributing an additional $20 billion to healthcare costs.

The primary causes behind the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are the over-prescription of antibiotics and the prevalent use of these drugs to promote livestock growth.

Battling Antibiotic Resistance

To combat the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, several measures can be taken. These steps include a more responsible and cautious approach to prescribing antibiotics, reducing or eliminating the use of antibiotics in livestock and improving hygienic practices in healthcare institutions and within communities.

Responsible Prescribing

Healthcare providers should be highly discerning in dishing out antibiotic prescriptions – patients should only receive them if they are truly required. Additionally, patients should complete their prescriptions, even if they feel better, and not take antibiotics for viral infections, like the common cold or flu.

Antibiotics and Livestock

The use of antibiotics in animal feed is mainly to induce growth and compensate for poor living conditions, but experts advocate for the phasing out of antibiotics for this purpose. Instead, the drugs should only be used to treat animals that pose a direct threat to public health. In January 2017, the FDA implemented [Guidance for Industry №213]( “), a policy aimed at encouraging safe use of antibiotics regarding livestock production – a voluntary program that has seen initial success.

Improved Hygiene

Lastly, improved hygiene is crucial in preventing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Proper hand-washing techniques, regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces, and the appropriate sterilization of medical equipment can all help in reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In Conclusion

Antibiotic resistance is a significant and growing health threat that requires a multi-faceted approach to mitigate its impact. By adopting responsible prescribing practices, limiting antibiotic use in livestock, and improving overall hygiene standards, steps can be taken to slow the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The battle against antibiotic resistance must continue to ensure that future generations are protected against life-threatening infections.