|Healthy Living : Curbing Antibiotic Resistance|
With drug-resistant staph infections making headlines,
many concerned patients are trying to separate fact
from fiction while learning how to best protect themselves
and their families from these new “superbugs.”
Although methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus,
or MRSA, is probably the most talked-about drug resistant
infection, today about 70 percent of bacteria that
cause infections in hospitals are resistant to at least one
common antibiotic. Tuberculosis, gonorrhea, malaria,
childhood ear infections, and other bacterial conditions
are getting increasingly hard to treat. Many diseases can
become untreatable, returning us to the days before
antibiotics were invented. There are steps you can take,
however, to help curb antibiotic resistance and reduce
the likelihood of falling victim to MRSA and other drugresistant
What Causes Antibiotic Resistance?
Antibiotic resistance is a natural process in the evolution
of bacteria—single-celled organisms found on the
inside and outside of the body, except in sterile areas,
such as blood and spinal fluid. Most bacteria are harmless
and even beneficial. Some bacteria can cause illnesses
such as strep throats or ear infections, which are
usually treated with antibiotic medications.
When antibiotics are taken, they kill the bacteria that are
too weak to resist them—but those strong enough to
withstand the antibiotic effect can survive, multiply, and
dominate the bacteria strain.
Many social factors contribute to antibiotic resistance,
as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, antibiotic prescriptions rose dramatically
from 1985 to the early 1990s—by 7 million for sinusitis
and by 8 million for middle-ear infections. At the
same time, medical visits for children’s ear infections
doubled—a trend some have attributed to the widespread
use of day-care facilities. Immunosuppressant
medications accompanying chemotherapy and transplants
also predispose people to infections.
Another contributor to the problem is inappropriate use
of antibiotics. Impressed by the fast-acting relief from
antibiotics, patients have gotten into the habit of
demanding the powerful drugs for anything that ails
them—without distinguishing between bacterial infections,
which can be treated by antibiotics, and viral
infections, which cannot. Moreover, instead of completing
the course of treatment, some stop taking antibiotics
when they feel better, contributing to bacterial
resistance. Feeding antibiotics to animals—which are
later consumed by humans as food—for disease prevention
and for weight gain has also been a cause for
concern, potentially making human illness more difficult
How Can I Prevent Antibiotic Resistance?
• Boost your immunity by eating a quality diet, exercising,
and reducing stress. During the cold and flu season,
take vitamin C and zinc.
• Do not demand antibiotics for you or your child to treat
viral infections, such as common colds, coughs, and flu.
Viruses don’t respond to antibiotics and usually resolve
within a week or two. If your symptoms get worse, notify
your health care provider to find the best treatment for
• Mild ear infections also heal by themselves within one
or two weeks. Some anecdotal evidence shows that
chiropractic adjustments may help relieve the pain
associated with ear infections by allowing fluid to drain
from the Eustachian tube.
• When prescribed antibiotics, stick to the schedule and
take the entire dosage, even if you are feeling better.
Stopping the antibiotic treatment too soon helps
bacteria develop antibiotic resistance.
• Don’t save any antibiotics for the next time you get
sick. Discard any leftover medication after completing
the course of treatment.
• Don’t take an antibiotic prescribed for another person—
it may not be appropriate for your condition.
Taking the wrong medication may delay recovery and
prompt bacteria to multiply.
• Antibacterial cleaning products have not been proven
to prevent the spread of infection better than non-antibacterial
products. In fact, some preliminary studies
have shown that antibacterial cleaning products may
contribute to antibiotic resistance.
How Can I Protect Myself From Staph
The most effective way to prevent staph infections is
to practice hygiene. Here are a few suggestions:
• Wash your hands before eating, after using the restroom,
or after contact with potentially contaminated
• Keep your and your kids’ wounds clean and covered.
When wounds don’t heal properly, seek medical attention.
• Avoid sharing and encourage children not to share
personal items such as clothes, towels, soap, and
• Promptly change wet and sweaty clothes, for example,
after going to the gym, to prevent staph growth.
• When working out in a gym, use your own yoga mat,
shower with flip-flops, and sanitize any fitness equipment
What Are Staph and MRSA?
The first bacterium that has developed resistance to
medications is staphylococcus aureus (staph). A
form of staph infection called MRSA (methicillinresistant
staphylococcus aureus) has caused concern
in many school districts across the country after
the death of a 17-year-old student in Virginia. MRSA,
which does not respond to routine treatment with
some common antibiotics, has long been associated
with hospitals and other health care facilities, but
has recently started appearing outside these settings.
Staph can cause both mild and severe illness. Mild
infections, which may look like a pimple or boil and
can be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other
drainage, are usually easily treated. More serious
infections may cause bloodstream or surgical infections,
or pneumonia, with symptoms such as fever,
chills, and shortness of breath. The good news is
that serious infections can often be prevented.
Approximately 25 percent to 30 percent of healthy
people may carry staph and only one percent carry
MRSA. Staph bacteria are often carried on the skin
or in the nose of healthy people; most of the time,
these bacteria are harmless. Staph is contracted
through direct contact with skin, blood, or contaminated
items, sometimes causing infection.
For more information on health and safety visit the Ontario Chiropractic Association Web site at www.chiropractic.on.ca or call 1877-327-2273.
Dr. George Traitses, 416-499-5656, www.infinite-health.com
Dr. George Traitses 6/1/2011