Antibiotic-resistant bugs have become a common cause of death, says first report of its kind confirms the CDC!
Image Source: CNN via CDC
23,000 killed by superbugs in US each year, CDC says (Source: NBC)
Most of us have had antibiotics before, usually when we’re sick. But we’ve also been hearing about warnings from health experts that an over reliance on antibiotics has produced what’s known as superbugs – basically mutated diseases that are immune to antibiotics.
Now, a new study has found that this problem may be the most serious in mainland China.
China currently uses the most antibiotics of any country in the in the world. This is partly because of the size of its population , but also because Chinese people use them a lot more. For example, on average, a Chinese person would consume 138 grams of antibiotics per year. That’s 10 times more than in the United States. Also, while the World Health Organization recommends that hospitals give no more than 30% of in-patients antibiotics, in China, 70% of inpatients get them.
So why is it so overused? Well, because even though China has a semi-communist system, the government doesn’t really support the hospitals, so drug sales account for about of half of the revenue that Chinese hospitals make. And of that, about half ( 47%) come from antibiotics. So as you can imagine it’s a huge money maker for the healthcare system as well as Chinese doctors who get kickbacks if they prescribe from both hospitals and drug companies.Also, because traditional Chinese medicine has given way to western pharmaceuticals, some patients also have the expectation that, when they get sick, the doctor has to prescribe them something.
So now all this use of antibiotics is creating drug-resistant illnesses that can withstand multiple types of medication. A paper recently published in Nature Communications says that Chinese people have a lot more drug-resistant genes in their stomachs than people in Europe. What’s worse, the overuse isn’t just in humans. China’s livestock industry is very loosely regulated, and to boost their production, farmers give a lot of antibiotics to their animals, which can and do travel up the food chain. On average, four times more antibiotics are used in China for veterinary purposes than in the US.
And that’s probably why, in a study published in February this year, scientists found 149 different drug resistant genes in manures of pigs that were fed antibiotics. That’s 200 times more than pigs that were not treated with antibiotics.
All of this overuse has scientists very worried. The World Health Organization estimates that 6.8% of tuberculosis cases in China are multi-drug resistant. In a developed country, only 2% are. Experts are concerned that superbugs like MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) could be thriving in China’s antibiotic-heavy environment. And if they mutate faster than scientists can develop new drugs to combat them, it could be a huge problem.