JUL 10, 2016 1:26 PM PDT

The Rise of Drug-Resistant Superbugs

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

In May of 2016, doctors and scientists discovered a patient carrying bacteria resistant to antibiotics of the last resort. The patient carried an E. coli strain that was resistant to colistin, an antibiotic deemed as the "end of the road" as far as doctors' arsenal of antibiotics are concerned.

The discovery prompted fear and alarm among health officials and the public alike. Did this first case really "herald the emergence of a truly pan-drug resistant bacteria?" Let's hope not.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends several precautions to stop antibiotic resistance. First, WHO specifies that antibiotics should not be prescribed unless the infection is bacterial in nature and should respond to antibiotics. Unfortunately, nearly 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed for respiratory infections may be unnecessary, as physicians can mistake viral infections for bacterial infections. Second, WHO recommends patients to take the full prescribed antibiotic dose to prevent the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Farmers in the agricultural industries are also bear the burden of preventing livestock and crops from developing and spreading drug-resistant bacteria through appropriate use of antibiotics.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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