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Reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Serious infections due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise. Bacteria like Acinetobacter can resist antibiotics and cause pneumonia and bloodstream or urinary tract infections. Other common diseases like salmonella and Typhoid fever are also caused by bacteria that build up a resistance to drugs. Infections like these are difficult to treat since the medicine used to fight them no longer has an effect. In fact, some scientists estimate that the deaths due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria will outpace all other factors by 2050. How can you help stop the spread? Microbiology and Molecular Biology professor Julianne Grose suggests five simple ways you can reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria:

Reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria infographic
Photo by April Teames

1. Minimize unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics
This can occur when antibiotics are prescribed for viral illnesses (antibiotics don't work against viruses) or other conditions that are not responsive to antibiotics. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about appropriate antibiotic use, and don't ask for antibiotics when they are not useful.

2. Follow your doctor’s instructions
Complete the prescribed course for any antibiotic you are taking so that it can work properly and not breed survival of resistant bacteria. Don’t stop taking a prescription just because you feel better. Setting reminders or alarms in your phone is a good way to help you remember when and how often to take medications. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about how to take a prescription medication.

3. Practice good personal hygiene
Reducing the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the community is as easy as washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and using a tissue to blow your nose. If you feel sick, stay home so you don’t spread germs to others. Small habits can have a big impact!

4. Clean high-contact areas
Frequently wash areas in your home and/or office that people are touching often. Door handles, light switches, keyboards, and remote controls are just a few spots that need regular cleaning. A simple disinfectant spray or wipe can stop bacteria in its tracks.

5. Spread the word!
You may not be a bacteria expert, but you can still make a difference! Encourage people in your household to practice good hygiene, make sure your home and office are sanitary spaces, and help others use antibiotic prescriptions correctly.