There are some scary bugs going around these days: MRSA, C. Diff and other types of infections that are tough to treat with the drugs we have available. Learn more about these superbugs.
Superbugs are strains of bacteria that have evolved to become resistant to antibiotics. They can cause serious, potentially life-threatening conditions – from skin infections to gonorrhea – that were once highly treatable. Superbugs now cause infections in 2 million people a year in the in United States alone.
How Superbugs Emerged
When penicillin was made widely available in the 1940s, it was literally a lifesaver – but soon some organisms grew resistant to it. While drug manufacturers tried to counter this with new antibiotics, these induced the same resistance over time that penicillin had. In part, this was caused by antibiotic overuse and misuse. Doctors often prescribed these drugs when the infection was viral rather than bacterial, which meant the antibiotics had no effect on the real cause of infection. Patients often stopped taking their antibiotics before finishing the full course of treatment. This misuse of antibiotics meant that antibiotics were given in amounts high enough to kill the weakest bacteria, but not high enough to wipe out those with some resistance. Those with some resistance became dominant and passed their resistance on to other bacteria that were exposed to the same antibiotics.
Top Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs
An increasing number of bacteria are resistant to available treatments. Some of these bugs represent a growing threat to national and even global health. Chief among them are gonorrhea, tuberculosis, Clostridium difficile (or C. Diff, a bacterial infection causing inflammation of the colon), and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a strain of staph).