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Posted: 2018-11-08 12:00:00

Half of antibiotics prescribed by primary-care doctors are done so inappropriately and are fueling the emergence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

So it went something like this. A lot of people got simple infections and often died from them. Then we invented the medical miracle of antibiotics and a lot of people no longer got simple infections and often died from them. And then we started using antibiotics all the time and the bacteria they were meant to fight started fighting back. The bacteria started getting stronger and stronger, and now many of these so-called superbug bacteria laugh in the face of our once-miraculous antibiotics. And voila, welcome to the scary world of antibiotic resistance – which the CDC calls one of the most serious public health problems in the United States and which "threatens to return us to the time when simple infections were often fatal."

How bad is it? According to a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), superbug infections could cost the lives of some 2.4 million people in Europe, North America and Australia over the next three decades unless more is done to fight antibiotic resistance.

As of now, in the United States alone, at least 2 million people each year get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 people die from those infections. The antibiotics are useless in the face of these resistant microbes.

In the countries covered in the OECD report, half of antibiotics prescribed by primary-care doctors are done so inappropriately. In the U.S., according to the CDC, about 30 percent of antibiotics – equivalent to 47 million prescriptions – are prescribed unnecessarily in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms.

The authors of the OECD report suggest five strategies for tackling this potentially catastrophic healthcare issue, from improving hygiene in hospitals to better diagnostic tools (read more about these strategies starting on page 19 of the report). But the one

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