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Protect Your Family from Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

chemist_1 Antibiotic-Resistant “Superbugs”:
Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
 
Our country’s overuse and dependence on antibiotics could be producing dire consequences. In 1995, a study conducted in Atlanta and published in The New England Journal of Medicine found 25% of bacterial pneumonia illnesses were resistant to penicillin, and another 25% were resistant to several antibiotics.” (1)

In recent months, a series of news reports have provided more evidence that the overuse of synthetic antibacterial products and antibiotic medications are hurting our health instead of improving it. As a result, the prevalence of what health officials call “superbugs” appears to be on the rise and are creating major health concerns.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your children from “superbugs”?

The most important thing you can do is to practice good hygiene by washing your hands with plain soap (not antibacterial) and water and observe “contact” precautions. If you have a cut or abrasion, clean the area and keep it covered with a bandage until completely healed. Also be aware of the people around you; avoid contact with individuals who appear to have open wounds. Avoid sharing towels, sports equipment, cosmetics or other personal items.

The vast majority of staph infections will require some type of antibiotic treatment depending on the severity and location of the infection.

For years, researchers have been concerned that the accelerated misuse of antibiotics in food production could also be contributing to “superbug” antibiotic resistance in humans. Because livestock live in bacteria-abundant environments and are given antibiotics in feed additives to promote growth, mutations can occur, producing antibiotic-resistant genes. This overuse of antibiotics in agriculture encourages the development of resistant bacteria that can then be passed on to humans through improperly-prepared meat and poultry. As a result of the growing understanding about the overuse of antibiotics in livestock and its potential affect on humans, the European Union has banned the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in agriculture. (2)

You can avoid staph food poisoning by making sure meat and poultry is thoroughly cooked and not allowing prepared foods to remain at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Changes towards a more organic diet can also help reduce your risk of staph food poisoning. Organic food stores carry antibiotic-free beef and poultry and many supermarkets already offer antibiotic-free chicken. Look for a certified organic label. Most grocers are willing to meet the demands of their customers. Speak to your grocery store manager about carrying more antibiotic-free meat and poultry if it is not currently available.

According to the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, “Constant use of disinfecting agents tends to disrupt the normal bacteria that act as barriers against invading pathogens. This may cause shifts in bacterial populations and create a ‘space’ for disease-causing bacteria to enter and establish infection.” (3)

We, at the Center, always stress limiting the use of disinfectants and antibacterials to areas where there is an infectious disease control issue - like in an operating room. But for the rest our living spaces, we need to avoid oversanitizing, which along with harmful bacteria, also destroys the beneficial bacteria that help us stay healthy. Our homes should be clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.

Finally, but perhaps most important, avoid overusing or misusing antibiotics. Antibiotics are not recommended unless testing confirms a bacterial infection. Antibiotics are ineffective in fighting the flu, for example, because it is a viral infection. Overuse of antibiotics can increases your risk of developing a drug resistant strain of staph. Only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary and recommended by a physician.

As with all health related issues, prevention is the key. Take the time to invest in the small changes that can lead to a healthier lifestyle for you and your family.

Deirdre Imus

 

Sources:


Hofmann, Jo, M.D., Martin S. Cetron, M.D., Monica M. Farley, M.D., et al. “The Prevalence of Drug-Resistant Streptococcus Pneumoniae in Atlanta.” The New England Journal of Medicine. Volume 333:481-486. 24 August 1995. 12 November 2007. https://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/333/8/481

Public Library of Science. "Agricultural Antibiotic Use Contributes To 'Super-bugs' In Humans." ScienceDaily 5 July 2005. 12 November 2007.
http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2005/07/050705010900.htm

Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics. “Q&A About Antibacterials.” 12 November 2007. http://www.tufts.edu/med/apua/Q&A/Q&A_antibacterials.html
 

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