Superbugs infect two million Americans year—and they're rising

41% of adults unaware of threat

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are the "health crisis of this generation," according to Consumer Reports, which says providers must stop over-prescribing antibiotics and over-using antibacterial soaps.

Overuse of antibiotics has contributed to an increase in pathogens that are resistant to the medications. According to CDC, at least 23,000 Americans die each year from superbugs—with about two million being infected overall. 

Superbugs could kill more people than cancer by 2050

Yet 41% of U.S. adults are unaware of the threat posed by antibiotic resistance, according to a new Consumer Reports survey. And if the health care industry does not do more to combat the problem, it could put America's gains from modern medicine at risk, says Lisa Gill, the Consumer Reports prescription drugs editor.

"The emergence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs" threatens "millions of Americans," Gill adds. "The problem is fixable, but we must act quickly and work together to change our behaviors to preserve the effectiveness of these life-saving drugs."

Why superbugs are thriving in hospitals

How providers can combat superbugs

Consumer Reports outlines several ways that hospitals and physicians can help reduce antibiotic resistance, including:

  • Cutting back on prescribing unnecessary or otherwise inappropriate antibiotics.
  • Ordering cultures to discover which bacteria are causing the infections and prescribe medications to target them;
  • Refraining from using broad-spectrum antibiotics for cases other than difficult-to-treat infections;
  • Avoiding infections by regularly washing their hands; and
  • Washing hands with soap and water, rather than antibacterial soaps and cleaners that could increase antibiotic-resistance.

Patients can also play a part by not pressuring their doctor for antibiotics, requesting targeted therapies, and taking steps to avoid contracting an infection in a first place, Consumer Reports says (Consumer Reports, 6/25; Consumer Reports release, 6/25; MacDonald, FierceHealthcare, 6/25).

The takeaway: Antibiotic-resistant superbugs represent "the health crisis of this generation," and providers must act to combat the problem, according to Consumer Reports.

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