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Drug-Resistant Superbugs Could Lead to Major Health Crisis

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Health officials believe superbugs could lead to a major health crisis. Superbugs are bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now categorizes superbugs by threat level.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Health officials believe superbugs could lead to a major health crisis. Superbugs are bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now categorizes superbugs by threat level.

Warnings about overusing antibiotics and drug-resistant superbugs are nothing new. According to the CDC, 2 million people get antibiotic resistant infections every year.

More than 23,000 people die because current drugs are no longer stopping their infections; that's because while certain bacteria is killed after taking antibiotics, resistant germs can grow and multiply.

"You are talking about a potential major health threat if those things grow, if they become more prevalent and they spread," says Mike Brothers, spokesman for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

He's is talking about infections. The antibiotics to treat them are also prevalent.

"We have this sort of attitude now, that if we get sick, we can just go to the doctor, take a pill, and make it better."

"I'd say probably 50 percent of antibiotics that are prescribed are not needed," says Joe Follis, a nurse practitioner in Bolivar.

He says antibiotics are medications that destroy bacteria or slow down their growth, and that sometimes it's good for a body to develop antibodies on its own.

So the question is, why don't doctors stop prescribing antibiotics when they aren't needed?

"Some providers are reluctant to do that because patient satisfaction kind of drives your practice," adds Follis.

He says many patients have unrealistic expectations, and according to the CDC, the overuse and abuse of antibiotics has now made many bacterial infections drug-resistant.

"Bacteria are living cells, so they can adapt. These things that we throw at them to kill them, they adapt and change over time."

While killing infection-causing bacteria, antibiotics can kill good bacteria as well, "and lead to other infections because you don't have the good bacteria to keep you healthy," he adds.

"We can't abuse this stuff. It is very useful. Very helpful. We want to use it, but we want to use it in a smart way," says Brothers.

Follis says this problem has created a huge challenge to come up with alternatives.

"If we can't develop new antibiotics that will kill some of these bacteria that have now become resistant, then we're not going to be able to treat them."

The Centers for Disease Control is working on creating a plan to avoid this growing trend of antibiotic resistance.

The CDC also says there are ways to avoid getting sick in the first place. Preventing infections starts with practicing good hygiene, safe-food handling, and only taking antibiotics when absolutely necessary.
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