'Superbugs' getting more resistant to antibiotics, research shows

06 December 2014

Antibiotics that once worked to treat a common illness are now becoming resistant, and new research says it's happening in every hospital in America.

"In the last five years, we have noticed an explosion of these superbugs where they are resistant to literally every medicine we have. So when you get a simple infection you're going to be at risk now of death," said Dr Michael Schmidt, an expert in microbiology and immunology at the Medical University of South Carolina.

''If you get MRSA pneumonia it's really hard to treat, and you may not come out of it alive. Gonorrhea is becoming resistant to drugs that worked before," he said.

According to the Center for Disease Control, two million people are infected with resistant infections each year, resulting in 20,000 deaths. And resistance is largely blamed on overuse or mistreatment of antibiotics.

"It's sort of like a cockroach or here in Charleston a Palmetto bug. You know when you smack one, there is most likely 10 more behind the wall. Well that's why it's so important to take the entire course of an antibiotic. If you smack one palmetto bug or super bug you've effectively only gotten rid of one,'' said Schmidt.

Leaving behind a non-lethal dose allows bacteria to grow resistant and when it comes to bacteria only the strong survive.

"We've reached that magic tipping point where people are realising that without medicines, infections that we conquered 50 years ago are going to come back and haunt us,'' said Schmidt.

This is an issue that's so pressing that in September President Barack Obama issued an executive order, offering a $20 million prize to any agency that can come up with a fast and better test to identify superbugs.

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