Avoiding Resistant Pathogens

Summary: Individuals can avoid resistant pathogens by avoiding situations in which they might catch a resistant form of disease from another person or animal. When in such situations, precautions are advised: mosquito netting for malaria, cooking for food-borne diseases, no sharing of personal items for MRSA, and barrier protection for sexually transmitted infections. Good hand hygiene is essential. The key is to be aware of risky situations. Another principle is to limit the emergence of resistant pathogen populations by minimizing antibiotic use. (Don’t use an antibacterial agent for a disease likely to be caused by a virus.) Self-medication is unwise with antibiotics: Physicians have more knowledge of antibiotics than patients, they know what diseases are common in the community, and they have access to laboratory tests that can sharpen the treatment. Finally, avoid enriching mutant subpopulations by using low doses and antibiotics of questionable potency (black market agents and old, left-over antibiotics in the medicine cabinet).

In previous chapters, we discussed ways for society to control antibiotic resistance. Now we turn to the individual consumer. With few exceptions, contracting an infectious disease, whether resistant or susceptible, is a matter of probability. This chapter focuses on lowering the odds.

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  • Category: Infectious diseases