A killer bug spreading across the globe like wildfire sounds like something out of a bad sci- fi film. But while this is still the stuff of fantasy, microbiologists are concerned about the news of an enzyme with the potential to convert all bacteria into superbugs resistant to treatment.
So can we stay ahead of these superbugs? We talked to leading experts to discover what we can do to protect ourselves.
1. Use an antibacterial body wash/shampoo such as Hibiscrub before, during and after a hospital stay.
2. If you’re fitted with a catheter, ask for it to be removed as soon as clinically possible, says Professor Mervyn Bibb, a molecular microbiologist at the John Innes Institute, Norwich. ‘It is a potential source of infection.’
3. Ask hospital staff and visitors to use antiseptic hand gel.
4. Take your antibiotics as prescribed: If you don’t finish the course or take them at reduced dose there is a risk you won’t kill all the bacteria, says Professor Bibb. ‘Finishing the course will ensure all pathogens are killed. Taking less than the prescribed amount could lead to incrementally resistant strains developing.’
5. Watch for signs of redness, swelling and pain around wounds and report it to medical staff.
6. At home, practise good hand hygiene. Wash your hands after going to the loo and before preparing food. Regularly clean door handles, light switches and flushes on loos. Avoid sharing towels. Be vigilant about food hygiene: E. Coli can colonise meat products, such as burgers, so make sure you cook them thoroughly and they are not left bloody.