Medical News Today: Asymmetrical eyes: What to know

Potential causes of asymmetrical eyes include:


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A person may inherit asymmetrical eyes.

Genetics can account for uneven eyes and other types of facial asymmetry.

People with asymmetrical eyes may notice that other members of their family have similar features.

Having asymmetrical eyes as a result of genetics is not a cause for concern.


Imaging studies show a significant link between increasing age and facial asymmetry.

As people age, the soft tissues in the face relax. Cartilage, such as that in the nose, continues to grow while the bones do not. These changes can cause asymmetry.

Lifestyle factors

Some lifestyle factors can contribute to uneven eyes. For example, research on sets of twins has linked smoking with upper eyelid ptosis, also known as droopy eyelids.

Also, excessive sun exposure can change the skin around the eyes. Sun damage may affect one side of the face more than the other, leading to asymmetry.

Bell’s palsy

Bell’s palsy is a type of sudden, temporary facial paralysis. It causes one side of the face to droop, affecting the smile and one eye.

Its cause is currently unknown, though it may be due to trauma, nerve damage, or a complication of a viral infection.

Other signs and symptoms of Bell’s palsy include:

  • changes in tear or saliva production
  • difficulty making facial expressions
  • drooling
  • headaches
  • jaw or ear pain


Sustaining a blow to the face or being involved in a vehicle collision can cause damage to the eye area, leading to asymmetry.

Facial trauma may cause enophthalmos, or displacement of the eye. This causes people to appear as if they have a sunken eye.

Sinus conditions

Some sinus conditions can also lead to enophthalmos. These include:

  • chronic maxillary sinusitis
  • maxillary sinus tumors
  • silent sinus syndrome

With these conditions, changes to the eye can happen suddenly or gradually. They may also cause other symptoms, including:

  • fatigue
  • nasal discharge
  • pain and swelling
  • reduced sense of taste and smell
  • a sore throat

Graves’ disease

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition that causes an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism).

People with Graves’ disease can develop proptosis, or bulging eyes. When this affects one eye more than the other, it can lead to asymmetry.

Some other signs and symptoms of Graves’ disease include:

  • anxiety
  • changes in sexual desire or function
  • enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter)
  • fatigue
  • heart palpitations
  • menstrual changes
  • sensitivity to heat
  • sweating
  • unintended weight loss


Stroke is a medical emergency. It can occur when there is reduced blood flow to the brain.

People can develop sudden facial asymmetry due to stroke. If the drooping is extreme, it may affect a person’s vision.

Other symptoms of stroke include:

  • difficulty speaking and understanding
  • a sudden, severe headache
  • loss of balance or coordination
  • numbness or weakness of the face, one arm, and one leg
  • sudden onset of blurred or double vision

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Medical News Today: What to do about a dent in the head

A dent in the head may have a variety of causes. It could result from an injury, be genetic, or indicate a medical condition.

Skull fracture

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A dent in the head may be due to a skull fracture.

Skull fractures occur as a result of a blow or impact to the head. Injury to the skull can occur after any direct force, such as a car accident, fall, or physical assault.

An injury to the brain, known as a traumatic brain injury (TBI), can sometimes accompany a skull fracture, but that is not always the case. In the United States, there are about 1.7 million cases of TBI each year.

There are four major types of skull fracture, including:

  • open fracture
  • closed fracture
  • depressed fracture
  • basal fracture

Of the four types, a depressed fracture is the most likely to look like a dent in the head. The dent occurs due to the displacement of the bone toward the brain.

In addition to displaced bone, the symptoms of a skull fracture may include:

  • headaches
  • impaired vision
  • balance problems
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • confusion

Brain surgery

Certain types of brain surgery may leave a small dent in the skull.

For example, a craniectomy involves removing a piece of the skull bone. This removal might be necessary to reduce pressure on the brain from conditions that cause swelling.

Surgeons often restore the removed portion of the skull once the swelling has gone down, which usually resolves the dent.

Additional side effects following brain surgery vary depending on the reason for the operation.

Congenital skull depression

A congenital skull depression is a dent in the head that is present from birth.

In Western countries, the condition is uncommon, with experts estimating that it occurs in 1 in 10,000 newborn babies.

A congenital skull depression is usually due to trauma to the head during delivery. For example, the use of forceps or a suction device to help deliver the baby may result in trauma.

The main sign of a congenital skull dent is the depression in the bone. However, the trauma may also cause a brain injury in some babies.

When a brain injury occurs, symptoms may include:

  • trouble breathing
  • feeding difficulties
  • seizures


Although uncommon, different types of bone tumor may cause bone deformity and a dent in the head.

According to research in the journal Surgical Neurology International, tumors in the skull represent about 1–4% of all bone tumors.

Even benign tumors, such as fibrous dysplasia and ossifying fibroma, may cause an indentation of the skull.

Symptoms of a skull tumor may include:

  • bone pain
  • swelling
  • bone deformity
  • a painless mass

Gorham’s disease

Gorham’s disease is a condition that involves bone loss and abnormal blood vessel development. The loss of bone can lead to an indentation in the skull.

According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, Gorham’s disease is very rare.

Although it can occur at any age, it is most common in young adults and children.

Gorham’s disease can affect any of the bones in the body. Typically, though, the condition involves the skull, ribs, or pelvis.

Gorham’s disease causes symptoms in the affected area, including:

  • bone pain
  • swelling
  • decreased range of motion
  • generalized weakness

Vitamin A toxicity

Vitamin A is an essential nutrient that is necessary for a healthy immune system. It is also vital for organs, such as the lungs and heart, to function normally. Too much vitamin A can have adverse effects.

Vitamin A toxicity occurs when there is too much vitamin A in the body. It is rarely due to a person eating too many foods high in vitamin A. Instead, it typically occurs as a result of taking an excessively high dosage of vitamin A supplements.

Vitamin A toxicity can cause softening of the bones, including the skull, which can lead to an indentation.

Additional symptoms of vitamin A toxicity include:

  • dizziness
  • a headache
  • nausea

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Medical News Today: What causes hair loss on the legs?

Certain factors, including some health conditions, can cause hair loss on the legs. The sections below discuss these potential causes in more detail.


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Certain medications may be the cause of hair loss on the legs.

Hair loss that occurs as a side effect of medication is known as drug-induced alopecia. This type of hair loss usually affects the scalp. However, it can also affect other parts of the body, including the legs.

One 2014 study found that 42% of participants reported hair loss on their arms and legs after using the antifungal medication voriconazole. For most people, this hair grew back after they stopped taking the medication.

Other medications that might cause hair loss include:


Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks healthy hair follicles. It most often develops on the scalp, but it can cause hair loss anywhere, including on the legs.

According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, the condition affects around 6.8 million people in the United States.

Scientists have not yet identified the exact cause of alopecia, but there does seem to be a genetic component.

Coronary heart disease

There may be a link between coronary heart disease (CHD) and alopecia on the legs. For example, one 2018 study found that hair loss on the legs was more common in men with CHD than in those without.

Men with CHD also started losing leg hair at an earlier age than men without CHD.

Some other potential symptoms of CHD include:

  • chest pain or angina
  • breathlessness
  • lightheadedness


Diabetes can also cause hair loss on the legs.

Over time, diabetes-related damage to the blood vessels can result in peripheral artery disease (PAD). In PAD, a fatty deposit called plaque builds up in the blood vessels inside the legs. This interferes with blood flow and, consequently, hair growth.

Other potential symptoms of diabetes include:

  • frequent urination
  • excessive thirst
  • extreme fatigue
  • slower wound healing
  • tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands or feet

Thyroid problems

The thyroid gland plays an important role in the growth and maintenance of hair follicles. Having an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can affect the normal cycle of hair growth. This can result in hairs shedding too early.

Hairs commonly shed from the scalp, but they may also shed from other areas of the body, including the legs.

Though rare, some antithyroid medications — such as carbimazole and propylthiouracil — can also cause hair loss.

Some symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

Some symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • racing heart
  • increased sweating
  • anxiety
  • tremors

Other potential causes

Some additional causes of hair loss on the legs include:

  • friction due to wearing tight clothing
  • infected hair follicles, or folliculitis
  • nutritional deficiencies, such as a lack of iron or zinc
  • hormone changes due to pregnancy or menopause
  • recent illness or major surgery

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Medical News Today: Study finds no link between statin use and memory harm in older adults

There is no link between statin use and memory impairment, researchers have concluded, after evaluating effects of the cholesterol-lowering drugs over 6 years in more than 1,000 older people in Australia.

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New research reinforces the idea that statins are safe for older adults to use.

A team from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the University of New South Wales (UNSW), both in Sydney, Australia, led the study.

“Over 6 years, there was no difference in the rate of decline in memory or global cognition between statin users and never users,” they write in a recent Journal of the American College of Cardiology paper on the findings.

In fact, for certain individuals, statins may even offer some protection against memory decline, they suggest.

The results show that, among participants with risk factors for dementia, those who used statins had a slower rate of decline in memory and thinking skills than those who did not use the drugs.

The researchers hope that the findings will help to allay fears among consumers who have become concerned following reports of isolated cases of statin users experiencing cognitive decline.

“Many factors can contribute to the cognitive symptoms that isolated case reports describe,” says first study author Katherine Samaras, who is a professor at the Garvan Institute and head of its Clinical Obesity, Nutrition, and Adipose Biology Lab.

Results are ‘reassuring’

Dr. Perminder Sachdev, a professor of neuropsychiatry at UNSW and co-director of its Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, is the study’s senior author.

He says, “In this study, our data reassuringly suggests that the use of statins to lower cholesterol levels is not likely to adversely affect memory function.”

Dr. Sachdev cautions, however, that because the study was observational and not a clinical trial, the findings are not conclusive.

“However,” he adds, “the evidence is mounting that statins are safe in relation to brain health, and this concern should not preclude their use in individuals who are likely to benefit from lower cholesterol levels.”

Statins are among the more widely prescribed drugs. Since the 1990s, doctors have been prescribing them for people with heart disease or high cholesterol in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.

Prof. Samaras says that up to half of people do not fill their statin prescription, mainly because they are concerned about reports of individuals experiencing cognitive decline from statin use.

“We carried out the most comprehensive analysis of cognition in elderly statin users to date, and found no results to support that cholesterol-lowering statins cause memory impairment,” she notes.

No link to faster decline in memory, cognition

For the new study, the team used data from the prospective, observational Sydney Memory and Ageing Study.

The study participants were 1,037 people living in Sydney. Data collection began in 2005, when they were free of dementia and between 70 and 90 years old.

Over 6 years, the participants took 13 different tests to assess five areas of memory and cognition. They also underwent MRI scans to assess changes to their brains.

After adjusting the results to control for potential influencers, such as sex, age, and weight, the researchers found no difference in the rate of change in memory and other features of cognition between those who used statins and those who did not.

“There was also no difference in the change in brain volumes between the two groups,” observes Prof. Samaras, who is also an endocrinologist at St Vincent’s Hospital, in Sydney.

In addition, she and colleagues saw a slowing of cognitive decline among statin users with heart disease, diabetes, or other risk factors for dementia, compared with participants who had never used this type of drug.

“Our findings,” she adds, “demonstrate how crucial a healthy metabolism is to brain function and how therapies can modulate this to promote healthy aging.”

What we’ve come away with from this study is a reassurance for consumers to feel more confident about their statin prescription.”

Prof. Katherine Samaras

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Medical News Today: Using soup to fight off malaria

A new paper suggests that certain traditional soup broths may contain active ingredients that could help fight off malaria.

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New research identifies several traditional broths with antimalarial activity.

The research appears in the BMJ journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, and professor Jake Baum, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, is the last and corresponding author of the paper.

As Prof. Baum and his colleagues mention, almost half of the world’s population is at risk of developing a malaria infection, with half-a-million children dying as a result of the condition each year across the globe.

Several parasite species from the Plasmodium genus cause malaria, but Plasmodium falciparum, specifically, is responsible for 99% of the deaths. P. falciparum is increasingly resistant to antimalarial drugs, explain the researchers, which makes the need for new therapies imperative.

Prof. Baum and team started from the observation that the newest antimalarial drug, called artemisinin, derives from qinghao, a traditional Chinese herb from the Artemisia family.

In fact, qinghao has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years, and people have used it to treat malaria-related fever.

So, the researchers wondered, are there any other traditional, natural remedies with antimalarial properties? To find out, they screened 60 traditional soup broths — with renown fever-reducing properties — that originated from countries in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

4 soups may fully block malaria infection

The team obtained the soups by asking pupils from various ethnic backgrounds in a primary school in London to bring in their homemade soups. Of the 60 soup samples that the pupils brought in, some did not filter because they were too dense, and others because they were too oily.

After eliminating these soups, the researchers had 56 soups available for testing. The team incubated filtered soup extracts for 72 hours with different P. falciparum cultures to see if the soups would stop the growth of the parasites.

Specifically, the scientists wanted to see if the broths would block sexually immature, disease-causing parasites from maturing to the point where they become infectious.

The results revealed that five broth samples stopped the parasite’s growth by more than 50%, with two of these being as effective against malaria as a common antimalarial drug called dihydroartemisinin.

Four other samples were more than 50% effective in stopping P. falciparum, which suggests they may be able to block the transmission of malaria entirely.

These broths were either vegetarian or contained chicken or beef, and the researchers could not find one common ingredient between all of them. However, they did not collect the recipes for the soups.

Intriguingly, two of the four soups that were more than 50% effective at stopping malarial infection came from the same household.

Finding out which ingredients have the highest antimalarial activity should be the focus of future research, say the authors.

They also write that “The utility of any broth found to have antimalarial activity will […] depend significantly on standardization of soup preparation and ultimately identification of the active source ingredient.”

“[D]detailed toxicology with first human cells and later preclinical trials” will also be necessary. But, they continue, “This journey, mirroring that of artemisinin from the qinghao herb, may yet reveal another source of potent anti-infective treatment.”

To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study of its kind. Prof. Baum and colleagues conclude:

At a time when there is a resurgent voice against evidence-based medicine, such exercises have great importance for educating the next generation about how new drugs are discovered, how they might work, and how untapped resources still exist in the fight against global diseases of significance.”

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Medical News Today: What to know about ferritin and hair growth

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A doctor may prescribe iron supplements if they suspect low ferritin levels are the cause of hair loss.

Iron plays a vital role in many essential bodily processes. Without iron, the body cannot create enough red blood cells.

Find out more about the role of iron in the body.

Red blood cells transport oxygen around the body. When there are fewer red blood cells available, the body has difficulty transporting oxygen to the various organs and tissues. This can cause a range of problems, including anemia and hair loss.

One study found that in general, people experiencing pattern hair loss had lower iron levels than those who did not.

Other smaller studies have backed up this claim. For instance, one study found that women with hair loss had low serum ferritin levels, qualifying them for iron deficiency. This was a small study, and more extensive studies might help to explain the correlation between the two.

One explanation for why reduced iron levels lead to hair loss is that when the body is low in iron, it takes the ferritin stored in the hair follicles for use elsewhere in the body. The reduced levels of ferritin in the hair follicles could weaken the hair itself and lead to hair loss.

Iron is an essential nutrient, meaning that the body cannot produce it and must obtain it entirely through the diet. People who do not eat enough iron-rich foods may be at risk of having low ferritin levels.

Read about the top 10 iron-rich foods.

Diet is just one cause of low iron levels. Other causes may include:

When a doctor diagnoses low ferritin levels, they will typically advise the person to adjust their diet and take an iron supplement until iron levels normalize.

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Medical News Today: Why you should wash fruits and vegetables

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Washing fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of illness from food contamination.

People should thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before cooking or eating them. Produce that the manufacturer has prewashed does not require further rinsing, however.

There are two main risks of eating unwashed fruits and vegetables: bacterial contamination and pesticides.

In recent years, many outbreaks of foodborne illness have come from contaminated cantaloupe, spinach, tomatoes, and lettuce.

In 2016, for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigated an outbreak of listeriosis that hospitalized 19 people. One person died from the infection.

More recently, in January 2019, the CDC, FDA, and health officials in several states and Canada investigated an outbreak of Escherichia coli (E. coli) infections from contaminated romaine lettuce.

This outbreak affected 62 people across 16 states, but there were no deaths.

Although pesticides can help farmers grow more food, they also have many health risks. It can be challenging to avoid pesticides, however, as many nontargeted crops have exposure to these chemicals.

According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization, almost 70% of fruits and vegetables in the United States have pesticide residue, even after washing.

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Medical News Today: What to know about nut allergies

Nut allergies are among the most common food allergies, and they include reactions to almonds, walnuts, and pecans. An allergy to peanuts, however, is not technically a nut allergy.

Many of the 1.2% of people in the United States who are allergic to peanuts may mistakenly believe that they have a nut allergy, but peanuts are not actually nuts — they are legumes, similar to black beans and lentils.

However, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 25–40% of people with peanut allergies are also allergic to at least one tree nut.

In this article, we look at the symptoms, causes, and treatment of nut allergies.

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Medical News Today: What can cause a headache and a nosebleed?

Both headaches and nosebleeds are very common, and they are usually not a cause for concern. When they occur at the same time, however, people might think that they are linked.

In many cases, having a headache and a nosebleed at the same time is a coincidence. In other cases, everyday factors such as the common cold or seasonal allergies can cause both symptoms.

Rarely, there may be a more serious cause.

Keep reading for more information about headaches and nosebleeds, their causes, symptoms, and treatments.

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Medical News Today: The rise of superbugs: Facing the antibiotic resistance crisis

While medical research has helped us overcome many health threats, we now face a new type of crisis: Many dangerous bacteria are becoming resistant to the drugs meant to fight them. Where do we go from here?

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What is the state of the antibiotic resistance crisis? In this special feature, we investigate.

Healthcare professionals frequently use antibiotics to treat many forms of bacterial infection — from those that are mild to those that are potentially life threatening.

These bacteria-fighting drugs first became widely used in the early 20th century, though some medical historians argue that natural antibiotics featured in traditional therapies as early as 350–550.

For the most part, antibiotics have proved to be a crucial ally in the fight for health, but over the past few years, these drugs have begun to lose their footing in their confrontation with bacteria.

This is because more and more bacterial strains are developing antibiotic resistance — they are no longer affected by the drugs that once suppressed their growth and activity.

This means that many bacteria have become more threatening because we have fewer means of offsetting them.

When a doctor finds that a bacterial infection is not responding to traditional antibiotic treatment, they are forced to use stronger, more aggressive antibiotics or antibiotic combinations — an increasingly restrictive approach that can also bring about unwanted effects on health.

So how did we get here, and are things quite as bad as they seem? More importantly, what can doctors, researchers, and the public do to address the ever-growing issue of antibiotic resistance?

A growing health crisis

Only last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report reviewing the newest data on antibiotic resistance.

From the very first page, they make it clear that we are facing an important threat — the CDC dedicate this report to “the 48,700 families who lose a loved one each year to antibiotic resistance or Clostridioides difficile, and the countless healthcare providers, public health experts, innovators, and others who are fighting back with everything they have.”

The situation is dire indeed: According to the newest data, more than 2.8 million people in the United States experience an infection from antibiotic resistant bacteria each year. Moreover, these “superbugs” cause 35,000 deaths per year in the country.

This threat is by no means new. It has persisted over the years, as Dr. Jesse Jacob — a specialist in bacteria resistant to multiple drugs, from the Emory Antibiotic Resistance Center at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, GA — has told Medical News Today.

“[The] CDC released the first antibiotic resistance threat report in 2013, so this [situation] is not new,” Dr. Jacob told us.

Although, he added, “Since the first report, the number of deaths due to these infections has declined […] CDC has updated the estimated number of infections with antibiotic resistance per year from 2 million to nearly 3 million.”

The fact that so many bacteria are not responding to first- or even second-line treatments means that people with these infections face much higher risks and poorer health outcomes.

Antibiotic resistance has long been a problem, but the threats we face are real, immediate, and demand immediate action. Antibiotic resistance threatens modern medicine — our ability to safely perform routine surgeries and complicated organ transplants, as well as chemotherapy, all rely on the ability to prevent and treat infections.”

Dr. Jesse Jacob

Consistent antibiotic overuse

“Antibiotic resistance is not only a U.S. problem — it is a global crisis,” the recent CDC report states. But what has led to this problem reaching a crisis point?

The answer to that question is complex, according to a review featured in the journal Pharmacy and Therapeutics. The first and perhaps most obvious cause of antibiotic resistance is the misuse and overuse of these drugs.

Some people mistakenly believe that taking any kind of antibiotics acts as a sort of panacea, and they use these drugs to treat illnesses such as influenza. However, antibiotics can only target and kill bacteria and thus only treat bacterial infections.

Antibiotics are powerless against influenza and other illnesses caused by viruses. So when someone takes antibiotics for the wrong illness or uses too many too often, this kills off helpful bacteria that populate the body, threatening the delicate balance upon which health depends.

Moreover, bacteria are naturally prone to evolve and mutate, and some bacterial strains have, over time, found ways to adapt so that certain antibiotics will not affect them.

When we take antibiotics at the wrong time or if we overuse them, this allows resistant bacteria to take over more easily — to spread and multiply, sometimes giving rise to further strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

In the U.S. and other countries around the world, pharmacies are not permitted to sell antibiotics to people who are unable to produce a prescription. Nevertheless, studies suggest that many people are still able to purchase these drugs without official recommendations from their doctors.

Additionally, some research has shown that doctors sometimes mistakenly prescribe antibiotics or prescribe the wrong type of antibiotic, which has likely contributed to the current health crisis.

According to one study paper, 30–60% of antibiotics that doctors prescribe to people in intensive care units are not necessary.

Animals also factor in

It is not only humans who use antibiotics. While in some cases administering these drugs to animals is fully justified, recent studies have pointed out a problem when it comes to adding antibiotics to the food of farm animals destined for human consumption.

According to one recent study, “Of all antibiotics sold in the [U.S.], approximately 80% are sold for use in animal agriculture.”

Farmers have resorted to such high rates of antibiotic use in animals to boost growth rates and prevent infections, which are more common among livestock due to ways that producers handle these animals for breeding or as a source of meat.

New research covered on MNT has found that antibiotic resistance is now on the rise in farm animals, too — and the rates are increasing fast.

This situation, some investigators believe, also contributes to the global antibiotic resistance crisis that affects humans.

We need to better understand how antibiotic use in both humans and animals is related to growing antibiotic resistance — the concept is One Health, where the health of humans, animals, and plants [is] all linked and interdependent.”

Dr. Jesse Jacob

What are the ways forward?

In the face of this growing threat, policymakers have been pushing for a more careful use of antibiotics in general, while researchers have been searching for treatments that could effectively fight antibiotic resistant bacteria.

“More and more studies suggest ‘shorter is better,’ in terms of how long to treat common infections, but we need more evidence for many of the more complicated infections,” Dr. Jacob told us.

“We need research to find new drugs but can’t rely on a pipeline of new drugs alone to solve this problem, since resistance eventually happens to all drugs.”

Dr. Jacob also pointed to the need for better ways of determining which infections require antibiotics and when it is safe to start and stop this type of treatment.

“We also need to better understand nonantibiotic approaches to treat infections, including bacteriophages, vaccines, and antibodies,” he added.

The team at Emory University has been working hard to find a way to use existing antibiotics more effectively in order to fight off superbugs. The research — to which Dr. Jacob contributed — has shown that it may be possible to fight certain drug resistant bacteria using specific antibiotic combinations.

Another recent study, from the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests that instead of using combinations of one or two antibiotics, as doctors typically do, healthcare professionals may want to use combinations of four or even five such drugs.

Study co-author Pamela Yeh, Ph.D., argues that combinations of multiple antibiotics “will work much better” than current strategies, when it comes to fighting superbugs.

New drugs vs. a more natural approach

Other researchers are on the lookout for new drugs, following a World Health Organization (WHO) report from 2017 that signaled a “serious lack of new antibiotics.”

For example, a team of researchers from the University of Sheffield and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, in Didcot — both in the United Kingdom — started developing a new compound earlier this year that they hope will be able to effectively target bacteria, particularly strains of Escherichia coli, that are resistant to multiple drugs.

Other investigators are thinking further outside the box, working to harness the potential of bacteriophages, or bacteria-eating viruses. This is the case of a team from the University of Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, in Chevy Chase, MD.

These researchers report that they were able to successfully treat a severe liver infection in a 15-year-old using bacteriophages that ate the specific bacteria that had been causing serious harm.

Some researchers have turned their attention to probiotics, fighting bacteria with other bacteria.

Last year, specialists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases used Bacillus, a type of probiotic bacteria, to fight one of the most dangerous bacterial strains on the block: methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA. So far, their experiments in mouse models have yielded promising results.

And various scientists are looking for natural means of fighting superbugs. They suspect that compounds from plant-based sources could be just as, if not more, effective as antibiotics.

So far, researchers have cited green tea, cranberries, Persian shallots, and turmeric as potential sources of effective alternatives to antibiotics.

What we can do for now

For the time being, however, many specialists advise that the focus be on preventing infections from occurring. This, however, is more easily said than done.

The new report from the CDC lists antibiotic resistant Acinetobacter, C. difficile, and Enterobacteriaceae as some of the most urgent threats to health, according to recent data. The catch? All of these bacteria infect people who have recently received medical attention and who, usually, are still in the hospital.

“Some of these bacteria are carried by patients into the hospital, while others are acquired, in part due to otherwise lifesaving interventions, including antibiotic treatments and [other interventions involving] medical devices like intravenous catheters and mechanical ventilators,” Dr. Jacob explained to MNT.

What, then, should doctors do? According to Dr. Jacob, “Healthcare professionals can prevent infections by cleaning their hands and following infection prevention practices, using antibiotics appropriately (only when needed, for the minimum effective duration), vaccinating patients, and communicating between facilities to ensure awareness.”

“Educating patients and families about these approaches is key,” he added.

Regardless of how much care doctors take, however, dangerous bacteria may still prevail. A study from 2018 showed that many bacteria are becoming resistant to the alcohol-based disinfectants used in healthcare facilities.

And newer research, worryingly, has found that C. difficile appears to be resilient in the face of all hospital disinfectants.

Still, while we are faced with a serious threat, specialists maintain that prevention is possible — as long as individuals also do what they can to safeguard their own health. And the best way to do this is by listening to our physicians.

“Use antibiotics only when needed, especially not in ‘just in case’ scenarios,” emphasized Dr. Jacob.

“Discuss the need for antibiotics with your provider. Clean your hands. Get appropriate vaccinations, which save lives and can prevent antibiotic resistant infections,” he advised our readers.

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