Germs Gone Wild

Drug-resistant bacteria can even be found in newborns whose mothers overused antibiotics before pregnancy.


You've probably heard about the potentially deadly drug-resistant infection known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Despite the hype and its recent surge, MRSA primarily affects people who have been hospitalized, says Deborah Lehman M.D., associate director of pediatric infectious diseases at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Still, infections that can no longer be cured by traditional antibiotics are a growing problem. Here Lehman talks about ways to protect yourself and your baby.

What is an antibiotic-resistant infection?

Deborah Lehman, M.D. It's an infection where the bacteria that cause it are not susceptible to commonly used antibiotics. More potent antibiotics are sometimes required, which may also destroy good bacteria and leave people more vulnerable to infection.

Why has this resistance increased in the last 20 years?

DL The biggest reason is the overuse of antibiotics. A person with a cold goes to the doctor and is prescribed antibiotics, which she doesn't really need. Then, when she gets a bacterial infection, the antibiotic might not work.

How can parents protect infants?

DL We've found that good hand washing reduces infection rates in hospitals, and that should be practiced at home, too. Also, limit visitors during cold and flu season and during your baby's first two months of life.

Superbug-Proof Day Care Colds and other viruses are the most common illnesses at day-care facilities, but bacterial infections like MRSA and strep throat can spread easily, too. Pediatric infectious-disease expert Deborah Lehman, M.D., suggests keeping the following in mind when choosing a day-care setting:

• Watch the teachers. Make sure they wash their and the kids' hands often: at minimum, after changing a diaper or using the bathroom and before meals.

• Look for the hand sanitizer. It should be accessible so use is encouraged.

• Make sure kids' cuts are covered. This practice is a top way to prevent the spread of infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control.