Why are doctors making more superbugs?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Superbugs get really good at fighting antibiotics and turn into even more dangerous bacteria.

Earlier last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that citizens were taking too many antibiotics – a special medicine to treat bacterial infections. As a result, the number of “superbugs” that can resist the treatment is on the rise.

You’d think this news would scare doctors enough to stop prescribing so many antibiotics, but according to a new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, not much has changed.

“People may have infections that are harder to treat down the line because we’re overusing antibiotics today,” said Dr. Jeffrey A. Linder, who was involved in the study. How much are we abusing them? Take the case of a bacterial infection known as strep throat, which causes symptoms like fever, coughing, and sore throat. The researchers found that of all the people that complain to the doctor about a sore throat, only about 10% of them suffer from a real bacterial infection. However, medical professionals prescribe antibiotics to around 60% of them!

That’s not the only bacterial infection that gets a lot of attention, either.

Apparently, doctors prescribe medicine to individuals who suffer from acute bronchitis, a condition where the main airways to the lungs swell and make it difficult to breath. Linder says there is a ton of evidence that suggests antibiotics don’t even work on the disease, yet that fact doesn’t stop doctors from giving around 70% of patients medicine! If doctors know that prescribing too many antibiotics can create more superbugs, why do they continue?

According to the researchers, there are two reasons. One is that people ask their caretakers to prescribe it. By the same token, doctors are too willing to give in to their requests. In most cases, it’s better to play it safe than sorry when it comes to health, however, this is one instance where that message doesn’t ring true.

Images courtesy of CDC.