Superbugs are defined as bacteria that have developed a resistance to current antibiotics. Their evolution is currently outpacing the production of effective new antibiotics. When infections can’t be treated with antibiotics, the best defense becomes prevention of infections via well-designed medical devices, excellent hand hygiene, and frequent disinfection of environmental surfaces.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria evolve in a few ways. When antibiotics are used to treat an infection, bacteria without the resistance mechanism die, while those that have the resistance mechanism may continue to live and multiply. As bacteria grow and spread, they can mutate and develop a resistance that way. Bacteria can also share certain resistance mechanisms to other bacteria in a process called horizontal gene transfer, which increases the speed at which bacteria can evolve into superbugs.
- At least 2,000,000 people acquire drug-resistant infections in the United States each year, and at least 23,000 people die
- C. difficile infections incur more than $1,000,000,000 in excess medical costs every year
- Up to 50% of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not optimally effective as prescribed
- More than 800,000 gonorrhea infections occur each year, 246,000 of which are drug-resistant, according to CDC estimates
- Up to half of all blood infections caused by CRE (Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) result in death
Antibiotics have always been considered one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century. The downside is that bacteria are able to adapt, especially when antibiotics are misused, leading to the rise of antibiotic resistance in hospitals and the community. When you use an antibiotic, there is a risk that some of the bacteria will turn resistant. Using these medicines when they are not needed is a major reason why that is becoming more common.
The effectiveness of the current types of antibiotics is waning, and new drugs aren’t being developed quickly enough to counteract the adaption. Unless new drugs are produced and current ones able to be cycled out of use until the bacteria are no longer immune to them, the world could return to a time when a simple scrape could kill you. “This would really change life as we know it,” says Dr David Weiss, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Center at Emory University. “Consider going back to an era when a minor accident like a scrape could lead to death.” That’s what a world of total antibiotic resistance could lead to.
With all the concern about antibiotic resistance and superbugs, what’s the best way to avoid becoming infected with an antibiotic-resistant infection? Staying healthy and avoiding germs is a great place to start. After all, fewer people going to see their doctors results in fewer unnecessary or errant prescriptions contributing to resistance. Follow general health guidelines such as washing your hands, covering your cough, and using hand sanitizer in public spaces to avoid picking up someone else’s germs. SafeHandles products can be installed in any facility to reduce the bacteria available to be picked up by secondhand touch, on any surface that people will put their hands on. Electrostatic sanitization will eliminate bacteria on any kind of surface, and SafeHandles sleeves and tape will kill bacteria before someone else can touch the handle and pick it up.