According to Lance Price (director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University), medical professionals prescribe roughly 8 million pounds of antibiotics each year, an amount that has scientists warning an eventual ineffectiveness of antibiotics due to their overprescription, overuse and misuse.
Recently, this warning became a reality when a Nevada woman died from antibiotic resistance to a superbug, which was unsuccessfully treated with 26 different antibiotics.
Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy in Washington, D.C. has an optimistic approach to this impending crisis: “Antibiotic resistance is an avoidable disaster…and maybe reversible to a degree,” he said.
What can you do to help prevent this disaster and maintain the efficacy of antibiotics?
1. Choose your meats wisely.
Each year, farmers use 34 million pounds of antibiotics to prevent disease among livestock, and to accelerate animal growth. However, the overuse of antibiotics is the primary source of antibiotic resistance in livestock, causing bacterial epidemics that make their way into supermarkets, laced in the meat we purchase and consume.
The remedy? Stop buying meats raised with antibiotics. Instead, look for packaging that says: “no antibiotics,” “raised without antibiotics,” or “USDA-certified organic.” And, cut out pork completely, if possible. Why? Pigs are the most antibiotic laden animals on the farm.
2. Use the wait-and-see approach.
In 1993, the medical communities of Malawi stopped prescribing chloroquine to treat malaria due to the growing resistance. By 2009, the malaria pathogen lost its resistance and the antibiotic proved effective again. Moral of the story: be discerning about your need for antibiotics and try to use other remedies, first. The less you use antibiotics, the higher probability they will work effectively and efficiently if you do need them.
Dr. James Johnson, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota advises patients to be proactive:“Tell your doctor, ‘We’d like to talk about ways to avoid using antibiotics. Are there alternatives we can try or use a wait-and-see approach more often?'”
Every time you use an antibiotic, you raise your risk of developing resistant bacteria on your skin and inside your body. These pathogens are easily spread to others, causing resistant strains to spread, making everyone susceptible to illness.
Preventing antibiotic resistance is a group effort: we need to work together to reduce our resistance by encouraging each other to be mindful about the way we eat (antibiotic-free meats) and how we treat an illness (hold off on the prescriptions and let nature do its job).
3. Get a flu shot.
Lastly, Ramanan Laxminarayan reminds us that getting the flu is the main reason people are prescribed antibiotics. So, if you can avoid getting the flu, the less likelihood you’ll need antibiotics. He concludes: get a flu shot.
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