TODAY   |  May 01, 2014

New report: Antibiotic resistance a major threat

Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC News’ chief medical editor, discusses a report from the World Health Organization that is calling antibiotic resistance a major threat to global health. She reveals what you can do to help combat the problem.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back now with sports being called a major threat worldwide. antibiotic resistant . in a new report the world health organization warns that we could be headed toward a post-antibiotic era, meaning common infections may have the potential to kill. dr. nancy snyderman is nbc's chief medical editor. been hearing about this for a number of years but now the world health organization is calling it a global threat.

>> imagine a child in aleppo who's hurt, goes to the local emergency room and that child has an infection that can't be treated with the most basic antibiotics. we tend to think this is a first world problem, a western world problem. it is now global. but in this country alone, last stats were 2 million people were infected with antibiotic resistant microbes. 23,000 people died.

>> is this simply because we are overusing antibiotics and doctors are prescribing them too often?

>> antibiotics are in our food supply so we ingest them. we take them for reasons we shouldn't. we take them improperly. i think we always have sort of assumed if we go to the doctor we'll get something in return. that's usually antibiotics. and we have become germophobes in all the wrong ways. we wipe down gerls on everything as if they are bad for us. some germs keep us healthy and we are doing a good job destroying that.

>> why should we take antibiotics, why should we not?

>> take antibiotics when you have a bacterial infection . not a virus. antibiotics stop bacteria from hurting you and that's when they should be used.

>> once you get a prescription for antibiotics, take all the doses. do not stop before the doctor or the instructions tell you to stop.

>> that's right. most people will sort of stop when they feel better and that's the last thing you want to do. you want to take it just as directed, all the doeses. if you stop taking them early, the bacteria mutate. for heaven's sakes, don't give your pills to somebody else. .

>> if you want to try to stop the spread of a bacterial infection there are ways before you get antibiotics. wash your hands with soap and water but be careful about these antibacterial soaps.

>> basic science we learned about in kindergarten how soap breaks up particles and lifts them off your hands so the scrubbing action of soap and water under a faucet makes sense. don't wash your meat. cook it thoroughly. that's takes care of all the bacteria that are maybe on raw chicken or turkey. wash your fruits and vegetables. have it separately. and i think stay away from the antibacterial stuff. the more we get back to basics the better we have the chance of breaking the cycle. we really may be looking at a break-through world of a post antibiotic era and that scares scientists everywhere.

>> scares a lot of people, no question. nancy, thank you