Super bacteria â€“ bacteria resistant to many or even all of our antibiotics â€“ are becoming dangerously more common. Everything from deadly staph to unpleasant gonorrhea is becoming potentially harder to fight. Medical advances are doing their best to find newer and better treatments, but it’s what we do that helps stop the spread of superbugs. By changing a few simple behaviors we can slow the evolution of these diseases.
The most important thing is to realize that, though seemingly paradoxically, killing bacteria causes an increase in resistance. You’re killing off the weakest bugs and giving the strongest plenty of resources free of competition. Keep this in mind.
Avoid using any unnecessary antibiotics. For example, if you have a sore throat, do not take antibiotics before the doctor knows if itâ€™s a virus or a bacteria. If it’s a virus, you’re taking a placebo and contributing to microscopic Darwinism. If you’ve been given an antibiotic to treat anything, be sure to take the whole thing even if you start feeling better. If you don’t finish off the treatment, you won’t be killing off the strongest bacteria, and the infection might come back. Talk to your doctor about how long you should be taking a treatment, but normally antibiotics need to be taken for about a week.
It might sound strange, but one of the best ways to avoid super-diseases is to stay out of the hospital. All those sick people in one place makes a great breeding place for superbugs. About 5-6% of admitted patients acquire hospital-grade infections. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) about 90,000 people die from these kinds of infections, making it the fourth largest cause of death in America. To prevent this, avoid the emergency room if you need non-emergency treatment, ask your doctor if hospital treatment is necessary; if it is check up on infection-reducing techniques. Such techniques include: asking the doctor to clean their hands, clipping instead of shaving surgical sites, getting tested for staph and avoiding urinary catheters among other things.
Also, believe it or not, but your purchasing habits can also affect how bacteria evolve. Go home and check your body, bath, hand and dish soap as well as hand sanitizers. Do they say “antibacterial”? They might be contributing to resistant bugs. Antibacterial chemicals, such a triclosan, usually claim to kill 99.9% of bacteria. That extra 0.1% is resistant to triclosan and now has no competitors for resources. Antibacterial chemicals don’t clean any better than plain soap-and-water, so don’t buy into this marketing technique: just buy normal soap.
You also want to be careful what you eat. Because animals are often raised in such close quarters, disease is a dangerous potential problem for farmers. To combat the threat of a quickly-spreading (and profit-killing) illness, many animals are pumped full of preventative antibiotics. Livestock stops getting these antibiotics a few days before being butchered and packaged, but a few antibiotics do remain in the carcasses. These antibiotics enter your system and could help super-bugs, especially if you’re already taking another form of antibiotic. Try to buy antibiotic-free chicken, beef and milk at the store.
Of course, not getting sick prevents the rise of different bacteria. Practice proper hygiene, clean your apartment (especially where you prepare food), wash your hands (with non-anti-bacterial soap) and avoid stress.