On Sunday, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) cited the widespread misuse of antibiotics for the global rise of antibiotic resistance. The concern is greater than the sum of ailing patients, the ECDC emphasized, since antibiotic resistance forces hospitals to care for people longer with progressively pricier solutions that not only increase healthcare costs but also, in many cases, completely fail. According to Professor Peter Hawkey, chair of the UK’s antibiotic-resistant group, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections kill about 25,000 individuals each year in the European Union alone.
When Antibiotics Fail
Over the last four years, over one-third of EU and European Economic Area (EEA) countries have shown a dramatic rise in combined resistance to multiple antibiotics, particularly to Klebsiella pneumonia and E. coli. In many areas, the former infection is between 25 and 60-plus percent resistant to multiple antibiotics. While E. coli is natural in the human gut, some strains can cause havoc on the body, such as through food-borne pathogens or hospital-acquired urinary tract infections.
The problem with antibiotic resistance is that mainstream medical practitioners have few other cards up their sleeves besides more (ineffective and harmful) antibiotics. According to ECDC data, consumption of these last-line antibiotics (called carbapenems) shot up significantly between 2007 and 2010, a worrisome statistic for ECDC director Marc Sprenger.
Antibiotics Misuse Breeds Resistance, Lifelong Problems
“We must continue working on these actions together,” he says regarding the EU’s multi-pronged action plan. The UK’s Health Protection Agency recently issued a leaflet raising awareness of antibiotics misuse, reminding patients not to ask their doctors for antibiotics to treat colds and the flu. In fact, researchers presented a study at the American College of Chest Physicians that antibiotics are ineffective against the common cold, and are mainly administered by doctors to quiet worried parents. This is, of course, only has a negative impact, causing patients to be at greater risk of lifelong obesity and metabolic complications due to the destruction of beneficial gut bacteria.)
Keeping Bacteria at Bay, Naturally
All most of us need to do at home to clean ourselves of harmful bacteria is wash our hands with warm water and soap, not rely on the heavily-scented antibacterial hand sanitizers that have skyrocketed in popularity with the growing fear of MRSA (meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureaus).
It’s worth noting that according to ECDC data, MRSA “has shown either a decrease or stabilization in most EU countries,” although it “remains above 25 percent in more than one fourth of the reporting countries, mainly in Southern and Eastern Europe.”