INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Their very name sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, but now health care professionals across the United States are sounding the horn on the very real problem of superbugs.
Earlier this week, a study in the National Academy of Sciences said a new strain of superbugs, identified as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CRE, is spreading amongst hospitals and long-term care facilities. The bugs are causing an estimated 9,300 infections and 600 deaths per year.
Experts, including Dr. Mark Bochan of the St. Vincent Health system, say this could have been avoided.
“These current forms of bacteria that we’re seeing have limited options and in some cases have no options,” he said.
Bochan is the head of the infectious disease department for St. Vincent’s. He says part of the problem is more and more people are going to places like emergency rooms or urgent-cares when they're sick and receiving antibiotics, often doled out because it’s a quick treatment that is usually successful. A practice which weakens their effect and allows bacteria to adapt
“And when those bacteria get into a human and we don’t have any antibiotics against it then that human will likely not survive,” he said.
Bochan says it’s extremely important to consult with a doctor and find out if an antibiotic is really needed.
He also says one of the best ways to combat a superbug may be to prevent it from spreading, so adhering to strict hand and health hygiene practices, such as the regular washing of your hands.
“I think those principles always hold true with infectious diseases—never more than currently when we have bacteria that are problematic.”
Bochan says there may be a new line of “last ditch” antibiotics which can defeat the superbugs developed in the next year or two. However, he says if those become overused, then there could be a far more serious problem.