The rare infection-causing germs are resistant to all currently available antibiotics.

By Faith Brar
April 11, 2018
Photo: Shutterstock / ImageFlow

By now, you're probably well aware of the looming public health issue of antibiotic resistance. Many people reach for the bacteria-fighting medicine even when it may not be warranted, so certain strains of bacteria are actually learning how to resist the healing power of antibiotics. The result, as you can imagine, is a huge health problem. (BTW, it looks like you may not need to complete a full course of antibiotics after all.)

Creating effective and powerful antibiotics is becoming more and more challenging for medical experts. And now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new report detailing the terrifying spread of so-called "nightmare bacteria"-infection-causing germs resistant to all currently available antibiotics. Nope, this is not a drill.

In 2017, federal health officials took 5,776 samples of antibiotic-resistant germs from hospitals and nursing homes across 27 states and found that 200 of them had a particular rare antibiotic-resistant gene. What's even more concerning though is that one out of every four of those 200 samples showed the capability of spreading resistance to other treatable bacteria as well.

"I was surprised by the numbers we found," Anne Schuchat, M.D., principal deputy director of the CDC, told CNN, adding that "2 million Americans get infections from antibiotic resistance and 23,000 die from those infections each year."

Yes, these results sound super scary but the good news is that there's a lot that can be done to contain the issue. For starters, this report by the CDC was a result of increased funding they received to prevent the spread of this kind of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As a result, the organization already created a new nationwide network of labs that focus specifically on identifying problematic pathogens before they cause an outbreak, reports NPR. Resources from these labs can be used to contain these infections and minimize the chances of them spreading to others.

The CDC is also recommending that physicians cut back on excess prescriptions. The organization reports that doctors prescribe unnecessary antibiotics at least 30 percent of the time for things like common colds, viral sore throats, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections, which-important reminder here-do not actually respond to antibiotics. (BTW, researchers have also found that frequent use of antibiotics may be linked to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.)

The public, as a whole, can make a difference just by practicing good hygiene. As if you haven't heard this enough: Wash. Your. Hands. (And obviously, don't skip the soap!) Also, sanitize and bandage open wounds as frequently as possible until they're completely healed, the CDC says.

The CDC also recommends using your doctor as a resource and talking to them about preventing infections, caring for chronic conditions, and receiving recommended vaccines. These simple and basic steps can help protect you against all kinds of different pathogens-the "nightmare" variety or otherwise.