Your Health: Fighting Antibiotic Resistance
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It's the ultimate uphill battle.
Every time you use an antibiotic there's a chance some organisms will survive, creating new strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria. It's becoming a serious problem, because we're running out of new medications to keep fighting.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now requiring increased reporting of these types of infections in an effort to better track and fight resistance, and some hospitals are taking their own extra steps to combat infections.
This problem is very real, one that healthcare professionals are now seeing become a harsh reality.
In 2013, the CDC released a "threat report," a comprehensive look at antibiotic resistance and its affect on human health.
They estimate that more than 2 million Americans contract resistant infections every year, and more than 23,000 die as a direct result.
Health care facilities are placed in an especially difficult situation: taking in and treating patients with these potenitally life threatening infections, while also caring for other patients with weakened immune systems.
"A lot of the resistance that comes into a hospital, comes into a hospital from the community," Dr. Dr. Robert Yancey, an Infection Disease Specialist at North Florida Regional Medical Center, says, "it's not just generated at the hospital."
Because of this, increasingly resistant staph infections, including MRSA, are a constant threat to patients. This has hospitals taking action.
North Florida Regional Medical Center is one facility trying to get ahead of the curve. In 2012, the Anti-microbial Stewardship Program was launched.
Kathryn Hernando is a pharmacist who leads the stewardship program at NFRMC.
"We have to figure out ways besides antibiotics or antimicrobials to combat bacteria," Hernando says, "and if it can be things that don't cause the bacteria to gain more resistance, that's all the better."
As a part of the stewardship program, a team of infection control specialists look over data from patients and doctors, essentially functioning as a safety net. If doctors are prescribing the wrong type or amount of antibiotic, they intervene to try and create a better treatment.
They're also focusing efforts on other sources of infection, like harmful bacteria found naturally outisde the body.
Decontaminating patients' skin with wipes when they're admitted has proven instrumental in decreasing infection rates. Data is still coming in, but early results from increased screening seem encouraging.
"We are seeing a decrease, where a few years ago we saw this trend going up, we're seeing it level off"
Fighting resistance will always remain an uphill battle, but the more judiciously antibiotics are used, the longer existing treatments will still work.
Doctors say one of the biggest ways you can help yourself be judicious in your own use of antibiotics. Only use them when absolutely necessary, not for common colds caused by viruses.
And to prevent the spread of germs, proper handwashing is key. It doesn't need to be with antibacterial soap, in fact some research suggests using antimicrobial soap may build up resistance as well. Experts recommend you wash thoroughly with soap and water and for at least 20 seconds.
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