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Doctors concerned about antibiotics no longer working

Scientists discover vital new antibiotic literally right under our nose
Posted at 4:23 PM, Aug 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-11 19:22:30-04

BALTIMORE — Chances are you don't think twice when your doctor prescribes you a Z-Pak, but Dr. K.C. Coffey wants you to.

"I'm very concerned. We talk about it every day; I talk about it with every patient I see in my clinic."

Dr. Coffey is an infectious disease specialist at the Baltimore VA Medical Center. Her concern is with something called antibiotic resistance, which essentially occurs when bacteria are too strong to be killed off.

"Antibiotics are one of the main resources that we have and as we lose those resources, we don't make up the ground in other ways. So it absolutely is a threat, and it's something that every hospital is addressing," Dr. Coffey says.

This is something that has been inevitable ever since we started using antibiotics, and it's not some threat in the distant future.

"We are in the middle of it right now," Dr. Coffey says.

The more we use them, the more chances we give the bacteria to adapt. Ever heard the term "superbugs?" That's what we're up against now.

"Even some bacteria have become resistant to every antibiotic that we have available. That's not the majority of all bacteria but it is out there, and it's scary, because those bacteria, if they become more prevalent in the population, we don't have any great options at this point to treat some of those," Dr. Coffey said.

While the obvious solution would just be to develop new antibiotics - that's not actually realistic.

"Bacteria actually change faster than we can develop new antibiotics to treat them," explained Dr. Coffey.

That's why doctors have started asking -- do I really need to prescribe an antibiotic for this? And if so, what's the shortest period of time I can prescribe it for?

Dr. Coffey says cutting down on our antibiotic use is our best defense.

The Maryland Department of Health and local hospitals are also working together to identify and track trends for resistant bacteria.