Drug-resistant pathogens refer to strains of bacteria that have evolved to resist treatment by antibiotics or antifungal medications. They are microbes that have developed defense mechanisms to survive and even multiply despite the administration of antibiotics. Drug-resistant pathogens are a serious public health threat that physicians need to be proactive about preventing in their patients.
About Antibiotic Resistance and Drug-Resistant Pathogens
Antibiotic resistance is a serious global health threat. The World Health Organization declared antibiotic resistance as a Top 10 Public Health Threat facing humanity. An antimicrobial is a type of medication that is used to treat and prevent infections. Antibiotic or antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria change over time and are no longer killed or destroyed by antimicrobial drugs.
Drug-resistant pathogens refer to bacteria, fungi, parasites or viruses that have evolved to resist antimicrobial treatments. The antibiotic, antifungal or another antimicrobial medication becomes ineffective against the bacteria – making the pathogen difficult or impossible to treat. Drug-resistant pathogens are a current global concern because they have increased in recent years at an alarming rate. The global spread of drug-resistant pathogens means that antibiotics are becoming increasingly ineffective.
Common Types of Drug-Resistant Infections
Over the years, the list of drug-resistant pathogens has grown substantially. Pathogens and infections that used to respond positively to treatments are now developing defense mechanisms. For example, nearly all strains of Staphylococcus aureus (the bacteria that causes staph infections) are now resistant to penicillin. Since 1997, strains of this bacteria have recorded a decreased susceptibility to the last remaining uniformly effective treatment, which is vancomycin. Other examples of antimicrobial resistance involve:
- Bloodstream infections
- Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) gut bacteria
- Clostridium difficile (C. diff)
- Escherichia coli (E. coli)
- Fungal infections
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Infections that cause diarrhea
- Intestinal bacteria
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Mycobacterium tuberculosis
- Neisseria gonorrhoeae
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Urinary tract infections
- Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE)
As this list of drug-resistant infections continues to grow, so does the need for new antibiotics to be developed. The main goal is to create antibiotics that are effective against drug-resistant pathogens, as well as to extend the lifetime of these drugs as much as possible. In the meantime, physicians should take steps to avoid and respond promptly to antimicrobial resistance and – ideally – prevent patient infections from occurring in the first place.
What Is the Appropriate Response to Drug-Resistant Pathogens?
Studies have shown that the misuse and overuse of antibiotic drugs are the primary catalysts in the development of drug-resistant pathogens. If a physician overprescribes an antimicrobial drug or prescribes an antibiotic for a condition that does not require it, this can increase the odds of pathogen resistance. The careful prescribing of antibiotics is necessary to minimize the development of more drug-resistant pathogens or strains of bacteria in the future.
Although pathogens can naturally evolve to resist antibiotics over time, studies have shown that the public is seeing more drug-resistant infections due to a widespread overuse of antibiotics in humans, animals and plants. Exposing pathogens to antibiotics unnecessarily creates more opportunities for them to evolve to fight off these drugs. Health care providers must prevent the spread of antimicrobial resistance to other patients in the same hospital if a patient is exhibiting signs.
If you have reason to believe that a prescription error caused or contributed to your drug-resistant disease or infection, or that medical malpractice is what caused you to suffer an infection to begin with, contact the attorneys at Youman & Caputo for a free case consultation. Our medical malpractice lawyers in Philadelphia will review your case to determine if it has merit. You may be able to recover financial compensation.