Ask Dr. Nandi: Could a newly rediscovered drug end the superbug threat?

(WXYZ) - Superbugs are killing more and more people in hospitals and healthcare facilities. The latest from the Centers for Disease Control put the number of deaths at 23,000 per year.

Many point the finger at antibiotics as a culprit. People have overtaken them, and bacteria have learned to become resistant.

So finding new ways to combat deadly superbugs has become a top priority for doctors and medical researchers.

Recently, they’ve turned their focus to a forgotten antibiotic that’s actually been around since the early ’70s. It’s called an octapeptin.

In studies on animals, this drug has shown promise in its ability to kill tough strains of drug-resistant bacteria.

Superbugs happen when a strain of bacteria becomes resistant to the drugs used to treat it. When someone takes traditional antibiotics, the drugs kill off much of the bacteria that are causing illness in the body.

The problem is that they also kill off the good bacteria protecting the body from disease. When that happens, the drug-resistant bacteria thrive and are able to pass their resistance on to other bacteria.

That’s when a superbug is born. 

Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to antibiotics and drug-resistant bacteria. 

  1. Take antibiotics only when necessary. They are not effective at stopping viral infections like colds or the flu. 
  2. Similarly, don’t take any antibiotics unless they’re prescribed to you by a doctor. 
  3. When they are prescribed, take them all, even if you start to feel better. Not finishing a course of antibiotics increases the chances bacteria will become drug-resistant.
  4. Be mindful of how antibiotics affect your body, and let your doctor know if you have any bad reactions. 

QUESTION: How is this newly-rediscovered drug different from other types of antibiotics?

Well for one it hasn’t been used nearly as much as others…so bacteria haven’t had time to develop a resistance.

There’s another type of antibiotic called colistin that’s currently used as a last resort for people with tough drug-resistant infections. This new drug, octapeptin, is similar…but it’s easier on the body and more effective at killing bacteria.

So doctors hope to have it in their toolbox soon as a weapon against deadly superbugs. 

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