Schedule Now Pay Bill
be_ixf;ym_202407 d_19; ct_50
Home Health Library Frequently Asked Questions What are superbugs and how can I protect myself from infection?

What are superbugs and how can I protect myself from infection?

Some bacteria and other germs are resistant to most types of antibiotics and medicines that treat them. Find out the risks and how to prevent infections.

Answer Section

A superbug may be bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi. Superbugs can't be stopped by medicines that are the first choice for treating diseases these germs cause. Superbug infections can lead to higher rates of death from otherwise treatable diseases.

Examples of superbugs include strains of:

  • Bacteria. Infection with some strains of acinetobacter bacteria may cause hard to treat urinary tract, bloodstream or wound infections. Superbug Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria can cause gonorrhea that leads to pregnancy complications. And staph infections with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA, can lead to surgery complications, pneumonia or bloodstream infections.
  • Human immunodeficiency virus. Strains of this virus, also called HIV, that don't respond to medicine can lead to complications or higher rates of death.
  • Plasmodium parasites. This parasite causes malaria, which may cause more serious illness and wider spread of the disease.
  • Candida auris fungus. Strains of C. auris are linked to bloodstream infections in people who are already sick.

Medicine resistance

To treat the disease caused by a germ, healthcare professionals prescribe a medicine that will block the germ. This gives the immune system time to clear the germ out of the body.

But if the germ changes so that it survives the medicine, that germ is called drug resistant. It's also referred to as antimicrobial resistant. A germ's resistance to treatment makes it a superbug. It happens naturally, and while resistance can be slowed, it can't be stopped. Once a germ is resistant to the first-choice medicine, other medicines have to be used. These can cause worse side effects, not work as well or be more expensive than the first choice.

Slowing resistance, protecting yourself

The best way you can slow down the creation of new superbugs is to prevent infections. You can protect yourself from infections when you.

  • Wash your hands well and often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't handy, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Handle food with care. This includes washing fruits and vegetables and disinfecting kitchen utensils such as cutting boards and knives.
  • Lower your risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection. You can lower your risk of infection from sexual contact by staying with one uninfected partner and testing for sexually transmitted infections regularly. And use condoms and dental dams consistently and correctly to lower your risk further.
  • Keep your distance. If possible, avoid close contact with people who are sick or have symptoms of illness.
  • Get your recommended vaccinations. Stay up to date on your routine vaccines and ones you may need if you travel or when you start new activities.
  • Take the right medicines at the right time. Some medicines offer short-term protection from certain germs. For example, taking an anti-parasitic medicine might keep you from getting malaria if you travel to or live in a high-risk area.

When you do get an infection, use prescription medicine as directed. Complete the full treatment course, even if you feel better. Don't share your medicines. And don't use any leftover prescription later.

Last Updated: March 29th, 2024