Superbug skyrockets, UH study shows antibiotics are to blame

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Antibiotic resistance is being blamed on the rise of the superbug.

According to a new University Hospitals study, more kids are coming down with the superbug, but sometimes there's not much doctors can do.

"The more we use antibiotics, the more bacteria becomes antibiotic resistant, and that's a problem we all have across the world," said Sharon Meropol, MD, PhD, Department of Pediatrics at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital.

Meropol's the lead author on a new study on multidrug-resistant bacteria. She said, from 2007 to 2015, hospitals nationwide saw a seven-fold increase in the superbug.

"This makes this bacteria really hard to treat, especially in children because there's fewer antibiotics available that are proven safe in children," she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 2 million people get sick from a superbug every year. About 23,000 of them die.

"The more we use antibiotics, the less effective they're going to be to treat infections," said Dr. Meropol.

Antibiotics have been used for more than 70 years. Over time, the infectious organisms the antibiotics are designed to kill adapted to them, making the drugs less effective.

"It was inevitable from the time we first started using them that bacteria were going to change and adapt to them and become resistant at some point," Meropol said.

She said nearly a quarter of children's antibiotic prescriptions are given for viral infections, which won't respond to antibiotics.

"It's important for us to realize that most infections in children are viruses and to save the antibiotics for when our children have bacterial infections," Meropol said. "As parents, we should not expect antibiotics all the time, but only when they're indicated for bacterial infections."

The study also showed the misuse of antibiotics is leading to 20 percent longer hospital stays and a greater risk of death. Meropol said it's important to realize most infections in children are viruses. The best thing to do is make sure everyone is washing their hands.

The CDC published a report outlining the top 18 drug-resistant threats to the United States. These threats were categorized based on level of concern: urgent, serious, and concerning.

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