Even Proper Use of Antibiotics Results in the Emergence of Superbugs

This is a bit nuanced but it nevertheless underscores the most crucial point about antibiotics: Never take them unless your physician is sure you have to. The reason? ALL antibiotic use — appropriate or inappropriate — results in the emergence of bacteria that are resistant to them.

It’s simply a myth, says infectious disease specialist Brad Spellberg, MD, to think “that if we could eliminate inappropriate antibiotic use, resistance would no longer develop …. The difference is that we can and should stop inappropriate use because it offers no benefit. In contrast, appropriate antibiotic use is necessary to reduce [sickness and death] from bacterial infections.” Therefore, “we must seek to eliminate inappropriate antibiotic use not because this will end emergence of resistance, but because it will slow it down without forgoing any meaningful benefit of antibiotic use.”

The following video makes the point, but subtly. In explaining how superbugs are created, it says we use antibiotics to kill harmful diseases like E. coli infections. But that over time bacteria fight back. As they get exposed to more and more antibiotics –– appropriately or inappropriately, in humans and in animals (as bugs from animals transfer to humans) — bacteria find ways to protect themselves. This is called resistance. Bacteria can be resistant to one antibiotic, several, or all of them; hence the term “superbug.”

One more thing. Since it’s the case that the greater the exposure to antibiotics the greater the likelihood of superbug emergence, it follows that when it comes to how long you should take a course of antibiotics, shorter is better.

The video also nicely explains the various ways that bugs fight our drugs: for example, by building an outer shield, by building pumps that kick out an antibiotic once it breaches the bugs shield, and so on.

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