Unstoppable superbugs: MRSA & more

190 million doses of antibiotics are administered in hospitals every day. What happens when your body becomes so used to the drugs it can no longer fight off serious or even simple infections?

A reckless use of antibiotics may be behind a growing public health threat inside our nation's hospitals.

Seven year old Bryce Smith has a healthy imagination, but the fact that he's healthy or even alive is a dream come true for his parents.

Doctors first diagnosed the then 14-month-old with the flu and then pneumonia. When his persistent cough and rapid breathing prompted a trip to the ER, an x-ray revealed that MRSA had eaten a hole through his lung.

MRSA was community acquired and antibiotic-resistant. No one knows how he got it and Bryce spent 40 days in a coma-fighting for his life.

Byce’s father, Scott, remembers, “To see a little baby with five chest tubes coming out of him is just something you never want to go through."

Doctors say while overall cases of MRSA are down, other hospital-acquired bugs are increasing.

Dr. Brad Spellberg, Associate Professor of medicine at the David Geffen school of medicine at UCLA and infectious disease specialist says, “Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Klebsiella, those are the three worst players right now. We're running out of stuff to throw at them."

Experts say the resistance is caused by overuse, or misuse of antibiotics. Doctor Spellberg says the best ways to fight them is through better practices like washing your hand thoroughly or cooking your food properly.

For the Smiths, Bryce's brush with death is now just a memory.

Doctor Spellberg says 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the US actually go to feed livestock which can lead to resistance in humans. He hopes the government will focus more on limiting that antibiotic use first. And you may want to think twice about not finishing your prescription. Experts say the resistant bacteria can also emerge when patients do not take the full course of their prescribed antibiotics.


WHAT IS MRSA? Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a strain of staph bacteria that does not respond to some antibiotics that are commonly used to treat staph infections. (SOURCE: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

SYMPTOMS: Staph infections start as small red bumps, which resemble spider bites, pimples and boils. The bacteria can stay on the skin, but can also go below the skin causing life-threatening infections in bones, joints, surgical wounds, the bloodstream, heart valves and lungs. (SOURCE www.mayoclinic.com)
* Chest pain
* Cough
* Rash
* Muscle aches
* Shortness of breath

* Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until they heal
* Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages
* Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors
* Shower after exercising

TREATMENT: For skin infection, doctors drain the bacteria from the infected area. Serious infections that have burrowed below the skin are difficult to treat. The treatment may include: fluids and medications given through a vein, kidney dialysis and oxygen. (SOURCE www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

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