drug-resistant superbugs

  1. Antibiotics no longer recommended for sinus infections

    Finally, a little common sense when it comes to antibiotics: A leading medical group is urging docs to stop using these drugs for sinus infections.

    Right now, roughly 15 percent of us suffer these infections every year -- and most are given 10 days of amoxicillin for it, despite the fact that up to 98 percent of all sinus infections are caused by viruses.

    And antibiotics, as I'm sure you know, are worthless against viruses.

    Now, the Infectious Diseases Society of America is telling docs to quit it -- because the overuse of these drugs comes with some serious risks.

    Along with the added costs to medical care, the drugs expose patients to side effects for no good reason. The most well known and immediate, of course, is diarrhea.

    But these drugs also pack a bigger risk that you might not feel right away. They kill off nearly all of the bacteria in your stomach, including many of the good bugs you need to stay healthy.

    And that can cause more than just stomach problems, since there's increasing evidence that imbalances in gut flora can play a role in everything from mental illness to muscular disorders.

    Call it one more reason to make sure you take a probiotic whenever you take an antibiotic.

    But that's just the impact on a personal level -- and that's small potatoes compared to the big picture here. The overuse of antibiotics has led to the rise of drug-resistant superbugs, and that affects all of us... whether we've taken these meds or not.

    Sinus infections are actually a case in point.

    They're the fifth most common reason these drugs are used, and the main one -- the amoxicillin I mentioned earlier -- is losing effectiveness in the small percentage of infections that really are caused by bacteria.

    As a result, the new treatment guidelines call for a different antibiotic in the rare cases they're actually needed, amoxicillin-clavulanate instead of amoxicillin, and for five days instead of 10.

    The change for antibiotics alone is revolutionary -- but they didn't stop there. The Society is also calling on docs to stop dishing out all the other meds commonly recommended for sinus patients, including the decongestants and antihistamines that have been proven to actually make the condition worse.

    Instead, one of the new recommendations is for nasal irrigation with a sterile solution -- an honest-to-goodness all-natural remedy.

    Of course, issuing new guidelines is only half the battle.

    Now let's see if docs actually follow them.

  2. Dirty docs spread disease

    It's the last place you'd expect to face infection risk -- but it turns out it's the one place you need to be on your guard the most.

    It's your doctor's office.

    Conditions in some clinics are so bad that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently sent out a reminder to everyone, urging them to review the most basic infection control practices.

    The CDC points to one endoscopy clinic in Nevada caught in the act double-dipping needles and reusing single-use vials of meds -- exposing some 40,000 patients to infection risk and leading to at least seven hepatitis C cases.

    The agency also says the outpatient facilities that now handle more than 75 percent of all surgeries don't have the same infection control standards as hospitals -- a frightening thought when you consider that hospitals themselves aren't very good at preventing infections.

    Hospitals, as you know, are breeding ground for bacteria -- and not just any old strains, but the drug-resistant superbugs responsible for hundreds of thousands of infections and thousands of deaths every year in the United States alone. (Read more here.)

    As a result, bugs like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile that were once rare and confined to very sick seniors are now starting to infect patients across all age groups.

    And some of them are even starting to spread outside hospitals.

    In addition to doctor's offices, outpatient clinics and hospitals, don't let your guard down at the dentist's office either: Another new study finds that bacteria just love the little chains dentists use to hold your protective paper bib in place.

    These chains rub against the necks of patient after patient -- and the cracks and kinks are the perfect hiding spots for bugs.

    In one experiment, researchers placed chains into a solution designed to pull the bacteria off. They found that chains that had been wiped with or soaked in disinfectant had almost none... but chains that were not cleaned had 1,000 bacteria per millimeter of liquid, according to the study in Infection Control Today.

    Since other studies have found that up to a fifth of all dental bib chains are never cleaned, the risk of getting a contaminated one is a lot higher than you might think -- and you could be rolling the infection dice every time you get
    your teeth cleaned.

    The easy answer is to make sure the chain comes out of a container of disinfectant solution, like a comb at a barbershop.

    But I suppose you could also treat a trip to the dentist like an afternoon painting the house: Just wear old clothes... and skip the bib.

  3. Our powerful microscopic enemy

    The latest disturbing report showed that common hospital bacteria can learn to resist antibiotics they haven't even been exposed to.

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