Amidst ever-growing concerns over the development of antibiotic resistant superbugs, Consumer Reports is driving action to tackle these issues in a three-part series on America’s antibiotic crisis. You can read Part I of the Consumer Reports series online here.

How Superbugs Spread

The first piece in Consumer Reports’ investigation, appearing as a cover story in the August 2015 issue of Consumer Reports, explains how the overuse and misuse of antibiotics is leading to the dangerous spread of antibiotic-resistant superbug infections. These aptly named “superbugs” are a dangerous consequence of unrestrained use of antibiotics. Bugs such as C. difficile and the antibiotic-resistant MRSA and CRE infections, kill 37,000 Americans each year and sicken at least 2.25 million. Consumer Reports will continue its investigation by revealing the role that hospitals and health-care providers play in antibiotic resistance, as well as antibiotic use in farm animals.

Safe Patient Project activist Christian Lillis featured in Consumer Reports

Peggy Lillis
Christian Lillis (left) and his brother Liam outside their family home in Brooklyn, N.Y., with a picture of their mother, Peggy. She died when an antibiotic prescribed after a routine root canal killed off “good” bacteria in her stomach, allowing a “bad” bacterium, C. difficile, to spread throughout her body. At least 250,000 people per year are sickened by C. diff infections linked to antibiotic use, and 14,000 die. The family responded to the tragedy by creating the Peggy Lillis Memorial Foundation. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook.


Taking Action to Slam Superbugs

Earlier this month, Marta Tellado, the CEO and President of Consumer Reports, attended the White House summit on Antibiotic Stewardship, where over 150 organizations joined together in a national discussion on the fallout from antibiotic overuse. In this Q&A podcast, Tellado discusses Consumer Reports’ commitment to participating in new initiatives against antibiotic resistance, the “public health crisis of our generation”. Activists working with the Safe Patient Project have an upstanding history with this issue and are dedicated to continuing this work.

Consumer Reports recommends specific steps for reducing the use of antibiotics and curbing the development of drug-resistant bacteria, including:

  • Patients should think twice about the need for antibiotics and should not ask doctors to prescribe them. Consumer Reports’ survey found that one out of every five people who had received a prescription for an antibiotic in the last year said they had asked their health practitioner to write it.
  • Doctors and dentists must stop over-prescribing antibiotics when they aren’t absolutely necessary. The CDC estimates that up to half of all antibiotic prescriptions are written for inappropriate uses, or for things they don’t work against, such as for colds and the flu.
  • Patients should request targeted drugs. When possible, your doctor should order cultures to identify the bacteria that caused your infection and prescribe a drug that targets that bug.
  • Doctors should reserve so-called “broad-spectrum” antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin, ceftriaxone, and levofloxacin for hard-to-treat infections. These drugs attack multiple bacteria types at once and are more likely to breed resistant bacteria and wipe out protective bacteria in the body.
  • Consumers should use antibiotic creams sparingly. Even antibiotics applied to the skin can lead to resistant bacteria. Use over-the-counter ointments containing bacitracin and neomycin only if dirt remains after cleaning with soap and water.
  • Everyone should avoid infections in the first place. That means staying up to date on vaccinations. And it means washing hands thoroughly and regularly, especially before preparing or eating food, before and after treating a cut or wound, and after using the bathroom, sneezing, coughing, and handling garbage. Plain soap and water is best. Avoid antibacterial hand soaps and cleaners, which may promote resistance.

For more information on using antibiotics wisely, visit Consumer Health Choices. Join Consumer Reports’ Safe Patient Project in the fight to slam superbugs by following us on Twitter (use the hashtag #SlamSuperbugs), Facebook, and sharing your story.


–Savannah Wood