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19 November 2010

Get smart about antibiotics

Knowing when to take antibiotics - and when not to - can help fight the rise of deadly "superbugs," say experts at the FDA.

Knowing when to take antibiotics - and when not to - can help fight the rise of deadly "superbugs," say experts at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The stakes are high, said Dr Arjun Srinivasan, CDC's associate director for health care-associated infection prevention programmes. Almost every type of bacteria has become stronger and less responsive to antibiotic treatment, he said.

Superbugs becoming more common

  • E. coli. A new strain, ST131, was a major cause of serious resistant infections in the US in 2007, a study published this year in Clinical Infectious Diseases found. If the strain gains one more resistance gene, the study said, it may become almost untreatable.
  • Gonorrhoea. Only one last class of antibiotics - cephalosporin - is recommended to treat this sexually transmitted disease.
  • XDR-TB (extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis). While many TB strains resist at least one antibiotic used to treat them, XDR-TB is resistant to virtually all of them.

  • Take the antibiotic exactly as prescribed, and finish it even if you start to feel better. That way, bacteria can't survive and re-infect you.
  • Throw out leftover antibiotics.
  • Don't ask your doctor for an antibiotic if you have a cold or the flu. They're caused by viruses, so antibiotics won't help.
  • If you think you have strep throat, ask to be tested. Only a test can tell if your sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection and thus requires an antibiotic.
  • Don't take an antibiotic prescribed for someone else. Taking the wrong medicine may delay the right treatment and allow bacteria to multiply.
  • If your child has an ear infection, watch and wait. This method is the best way to treat childhood ear infections, which are often caused by a virus, according to a new study published this week the Journal of the American Medical Association .

 

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