What are superbugs? ‘Superbugs’ are bacteria that have developed resistance to a significant number of antibiotics – like methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), E coli and Pseudomonas aeroginosa.
Where are they most commonly found? The bad news is that they are most commonly found in hospitals – where patients often have weakened immune systems and/or open wounds.
Why do there seem to be more superbugs developing? There’s a powerful cocktail of factors here – with excessive, inappropriate use of antibiotics; bacteria evolving; poor hand hygiene by hospital staff; and population growth and global travel helping superbugs spread more easily.
How big a problem are they? Superbugs are being found in hospitals across the developed world, causing over 50,000 deaths a year – with the development of new antibiotics not keeping pace and cases now appearing among apparently healthy people out in the community, not just weakened patients in hospitals.
What can we do to stop superbugs?
- Handwashing by staff, patients and visitors when in hospital - prevention is better then cure!
- Develop new antibiotics,like archaeocins recently (research funding permitting).
- Prescribe fewer antibiotics to slow the evolution of superbugs.
- Maintain a strong immune system,for example by following the advice in our Diet section.
- Phage therapy – which uses bacteriophages (viruses that invade bacterial cells) and has been used and researched for decades in the countries of the former Soviet Union (provided regulatory hurdles in the US can be overcome).
- Fund research to develop Vaccines to enhance the body’s natural defences and/or develop viruses which kill bacteria.
- Introduce copper fittings in hospitals. Initial trials have suggested up to 95% of bacteria are killed on copper surfaces.
- Manuka Honey – if the ability it has shown to tackle bacteria like MRSA in the laboratory can be replicated in clinical trials.
Nosocomial infections or hospital acquired infections, by definition, are those infections which appear after 48 hours since admission or with 30 days since discharge. They have become resistant to most commonly used antibiotics and sometimes create major therapeutic challenges for physicians.
The most common organisms notorious for nosocomial infections are MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus), Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeroginosa. Other important germs include Klebsiella pneuomonia and Helicobacter. They can cause serious infections in respiratory system (pneumonia), surgical wounds and urinary tract.
Overzealous use of antibiotics is the main culprit for development of antibiotics resistance and nosocomial infections. Hence, it’s of paramount importance that antibiotics should be cautiously selected and prescribed by doctors, and patients should never use any antibiotics without prescription.
Published 01/05/2011, Review date May 2015