Superbug CRKP is just the latest in emerging strains of drug-resistant bacteria. While new drugs to combat these stealthy microbes like MRSA and CRKP remain in development what can we do to prevent catching and spreading these dangerous bugs?
"The first line of defense is good hygiene and infection control such as hand-washing both in the hospital and in the community," says Dr. Daniel Uslan, assistant clinical professor of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "It sounds so simple but people forget to wash their hands."
Uslan notes that overuse of antibiotics also plays a role in promoting drug-resistant bacteria as microbes over time build up resistance to commonly-used antibiotics. Uslan directs the UCLA Antimicrobial Stewardship Program that promotes the appropriate use of antibiotics for the hospitals in the UCLA Health System.
He suggests the following precautionary measures to help people avoid superbugs like CRKP:
1) Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
2) Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
3) Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
4) If you are seeing your doctor for a bad cold or flu, discuss the use of antibiotics with your physician. If its a viral infection, antibiotics arent effective and will only add to the problem of antibiotic resistance.
5) If your doctor determines that you do not have a bacterial infection, do not pressure your doctor to prescribe antibiotics. Instead, ask about methods you can use to reduce your symptoms.
6) Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed by your physician, even if you feel better.
7) Do not save leftover antibiotics for the next time you become sick.
8) Do not take antibiotics prescribed for someone else.
9) In the hospital, ask if healthcare workers have washed or sanitized their hands before working with a patient.
10) Take special care to keep clean and cover and protect scrapes and cuts when in a high risk environment like a health care facility since some germs can spread this way as well.