PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - It is called antibiotic resistance. This is the way bacteria learn over time through mutation to be not killed by the medications we give to control them. The problem is getting worse.
Bacteria throughout the world are mutating and, as more and more people travel, the greater the chance mutating bacteria are spread. The resistant bacteria have what has been called a genetic memory stick. The scientific explanation is that the so-called stick is a string of genes which can be swapped quite easily. The result is often bacteria that are immune to our best weapons.
At the present time the problem of resistance is getting a great deal of attention in the medical community with the greatest concern in our country methicillin-resistant staph aureus or MRSA.
MRSA has killed an estimated 19,000 people in the United States last year and many of our common antibiotics are powerless against it.
Why the growing problem with resistance? There are many causes but the most significant is the overuse of antibiotics. World Health Organization officials say one of the biggest problems is that in many countries antibiotics are not prescribed but sold over the counter which means they can be used and overused quite easily.
Reported By Dr. Brian McDonough, KYW Newsradio Medical Editor