Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria

A couple months ago we adopted a sweet 8-year old dog, Axe, to be a buddy for our 11-year old dog, Toni.

Axe had a lump on his side that turned out to be an abscess. After two different antibiotics didn't resolve the problem, he had surgery, where the vet found his microchip had migrated and become infected. He removed the microchip and cleaned the site, but Axe is now on 3 antibiotics trying to resolve the infection.

Our veterinarian mentioned a similar problem he personally had, where a tiny rose thorn pricked his thumb and it became severely infected. It took 3 different antibiotics to get it under control.

And when I got pneumonia a couple years ago--again 3 antibiotics and no success. Finally after taking two different antibiotics at once I got better.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls this Antimicrobial Resistance--"the ability of microbes to resist the effect of drugs." According to the CDC, it's impossible to avoid the risk of these antibiotic resistant infections. In the press, these microbes are called "superbugs."

Bacteria find ways to develop resistance to the drugs we develop. This can be a real problem for humans and animals. It seems odd that something as small as a microbe can bring us down, but that's the case. Below is a short infographic from the CDC describing how antimicrobial resistance works.

Several factors have made antibiotic resistance more commonplace:
  • Antibiotics prescribed when not needed, or with incorrect dosage or duration
  • Microbes that contaminate food are increasing due to increased antibiotic use in food-producing animals 
  • Resistant strains of bacteria spreading from human to human or from other environmental sources.
The CDC tracks cases of "superbug" infection, and has a report on the top 18 threats. At the top of the list, under "Urgent Threats" is Clostridium difficile. Called CDIFF for short, a recent study found it caused infections in almost half a million people in one year. The one you hear about most often, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is further down, under the category of "Serious Threats."

So how can we combat these miniscule destructive microbes?
  • Avoid infections by getting vaccinations, proper hand-washing, and careful food preparation.
  • Don't pressure your doctor for an antibiotics. If your doctor diagnoses you with a virus, like a cold, an antibiotic will not help and only increases the chance of antibiotic resistance. 
  • Antibiotics for animals should only be used for infections, but are often used to promote growth in food-producing animals. Try to support the proper use of antibiotics by purchasing antibiotic free meat and poultry if you can afford the higher price.
The CDC calls this "antibiotic stewardship." Which is an important way to be stewards of our good health as well.



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