Unstoppable Superbugs: MRSA and more

January 23, 2012 9:23:33 AM PST
MRSA kills more people than aids each year, but there is a new class of superbugs that could be even more deadly.

Antibiotics... 190 million doses are administered in hospitals every day. But what happens when your body becomes so used to the drugs it can no longer fight off serious or even simple infections?

A reckless use of antibiotics may be behind a growing public health threat inside our nation's hospitals.

Seven-year-old Bryce has a healthy imagination and a love for dinosaurs. But the fact that he is healthy, or even here, is a dream come true for his parents. One that began with their worst nightmare.

"It just happened to be his immune system was down when he touched something," said Katie Smith, Bryce's mom.

Doctors first diagnosed the then 14-month-old with the flu? then pneumonia, but when his persistent cough and rapid breathing prompted a trip to the ER, an x-ray revealed something no one expected.

"MRSA had actually eaten a hole through his lung," said Smith.

Community-acquired, antibiotic-resistant MRSA. no one knows how he got it. But, Bryce spent 40 days in a coma--fighting for his life.

"To see a little baby with five chest tubes coming out of him. It's just something you never want to go through," said Scott Smith, Bryce's dad.

Doctors say, while overall cases of MRSA are down, other hospital-acquired bugs are increasing.

"Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Klebsiella, those are the three worst players right now. We're running out of stuff to throw at them," said Infectious Disease Specialist Brad Spellberg MD, Associate Prof of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Experts say the resistance is caused by overuse, or misuse of antibiotics. Doctor Brad Spellberg says the best ways to fight them is through better practices.

"Wash your hands, cook your food, live a healthy lifestyle," said Spellberg.

And better policy.

"Find out where the infections are occurring," Spellberg said.

For the Smiths, Bryce's brush with death is now just a memory.

Dr. Spellberg says 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the US actually go to feed livestock which can lead to resistance in humans. He hopes the government will focus more on limiting that antibiotic use first.

And you may want to think twice about not finishing your prescription. Experts say the resistant bacteria can also emerge when patients don't take the full course of their prescribed antibiotics.