Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise. At the same time, antibiotic drug development has slowed to a crawl. We’re definitely in trouble and must preserve our last antibiotics.
Little did I know when I set out to report this story last February for the Canadian Journal of Medical Laboratory Science that within days, the World Health Organization would publish a list of a dozen antibiotic-resistant superbugs that pose the greatest threat to human health. The WHO warned drug manufacturers and frontline infection-control healthcare workers to focus on the most dangerous superbugs first.
Then my story sources told me about a patient who was infected with a superbug listed near the top of the critical list. The story arc for the article fell neatly into place.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have several nasty tricks up their sleeves to evade destruction. They can develop cellular pumps that push infiltrating antibiotics back out. Some produce a slimy coating to avoid detection. Others even swap plasmids, small rings of DNA, with other bugs to pass on antibiotic-resistance superpowers.
What does good antibiotic stewardship involve? A team approach coordinated between infectious disease doctors, nurses and medical laboratory technologists can help identify the pathogen quickly, establish susceptibility and ensure treating patients with the right drug for the right length of time.
Preserving antibiotics is a shared responsibility
The onus is on all of us to use the antibiotics we have left judiciously. Antibacterial soaps do not clean your hands any better than regular hand washing.I hope Health Canada follows the FDA’s decision last September banning 19 antibacterial ingredients in soaps and body washes.
The next time you feel like pressing your doctor for an antibiotic prescription for the flu or the common cold, think again. Antibiotics are not necessarily required in surgeries either: my surgeon did not prescribe any before or after my foot surgery for cartiva implants in both feet nine months ago.
Click on the story below to read how the healthcare team helped this patient who was out of all other options.