Diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and tuberculosis once posed a huge threat to ordinary Americans; according to the Centers for Disease Control, these three illnesses were responsible for a third of all deaths during the 20th century. Cancer and heart disease have since taken over as the top killers, but the threat of bacterial illness has by no means left.
Today, experts fear the rise of superbugs — diseases resistant to antibiotics. These illnesses are of particular concern in hospitals, where close quarters and weak immune systems leave patients uniquely susceptible. Keep reading to learn where the medical community stands in the fight against antibiotic resistance in hospitals.
Identifying the Most Urgent Threats
In 2017, the World Health Organization outlined several of the most dangerous families of bacteria. Of particular concern: gram-negative bacteria, which are resistant to multiple forms of antibiotics. Multidrug-resistant bacteria are believed to pose the greatest threat in environments such as hospitals and nursing homes. Germany’s Federal Minister of Health refers to WHO’s list as “an important new tool to secure and guide research and development related to new antibiotics.”
Limiting Use of Antibiotics
The CDC reports that enough antibiotics are prescribed every year for 4 out of 5 Americans to take them. Worse, experts estimate that nearly half of antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly or to those who don’t even need them. Experts now recommend limiting use of antibiotics in all but the most severe situations. Medical professionals are evidently heeding this advice; estimates from a Blue Cross Blue Shield Association study indicate that, although still high, antibiotic prescriptions are falling rapidly. Infants and children have seen the steepest declines in antibiotic fill rates.
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