COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has found an antibiotic-resistant strain of E. coli inside the intestine of a pig in South Carolina. The “superbug” is immune even to antibiotics that are considered a last resort.
Dr. Majdi Al-Hasan, an associate professor of internal medicine and an infectious disease specialist at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, says similar strains have caused infections in humans in New York and Pennsylvania.
“It’s more important to know why these strains of bacteria have been emerging. It’s really antibiotic use, so antibiotic resistance has been closely associated with antibiotic consumption,” he says. That includes antibiotic use by humans as well as animals, who are treated with antibiotics when they’re sick and sometimes as a way to prevent illnesses.
He points out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 30 percent of antibiotic use is unnecessary. Patients, especially parents, will demand that doctors prescribe antibiotics for things like colds or the flu, which are viruses and therefore shouldn’t be treated with antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics then leads to bacteria that are resistant to them, Dr. Al-Hasan says.
As for how to protect yourself and your family from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, he says, “Cooking food properly. Make sure that meat is cooked. Avoid cross-contamination between meat and fresh vegetables in the kitchen. Hand hygiene is going to be essential to prevent transmission of resistant bacteria, whether it’s this strain or other strains of bacteria, from human to human by direct contact in the household.”
He says the CDC has a goal of reducing antibiotic use by 30 percent over the next five years, which should reduce the levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.