What travelers need to know about superbugs and antibiotic resistant bacteria

With the Zika virus spreading across South America and entering parts of the U.S. there has been a lot of talk about new dangerous diseases, some of which are resistant to traditional forms of treatment. These are sometimes referred to as “superbugs” because of how invulnerable they are to modern medicine. Thus far, there hasn’t been much cause for alarm because documented cases of such ailments are still quite rare. Nevertheless, travelers should always be wary about protecting their health when traveling domestically and abroad.

What is a superbug?
Many common illnesses are caused by bacteria – living organisms that can interact with your immune system in potentially devastating ways. Not all bacteria are harmful, however. In fact, many are even necessary for your basic survival. The amount of bacteria is a human body varies from one individual to another, though conservative estimates put the ratio at three bacteria cells for every one human cell in your body, reported Sciencenews. Again, the majority of those are benign or even helpful. Superbugs, on the other hand, are harmful organisms that have evolved to be resistant to most antibiotic medicines.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s no way to stop bacteria from becoming resistant to medication. Because of their extremely high rate of reproduction, these miniscule organisms can adapt and evolve quickly. The rate at which they adapt can be slowed, however, through proper sanitation and use of prescription antibiotics. Behaviors that help superbugs include not using antibiotics as prescribed, not washing hands, leaving food preparation areas unclean and living in an unsanitary environment.