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Consumer Reports: The Rise of Superbugs

“The next time you’re offered a prescription for antibiotics and ask yourself, ‘What harm could it do?’ think about Peggy Lillis.

Five years ago, the 56-year-old kindergarten teacher from Brooklyn, N.Y., was given the antibiotic clindamycin, which was supposed to prevent a dental infection. Instead, the drug wiped out much of the ‘good’ bacteria in her gut that normally keeps ‘bad’ bacteria in check. Without that protection, harmful bacteria in her belly ran rampant, triggering an intestinal infection so severe that doctors had to perform emergency surgery to remove her colon. Despite that desperate, last-ditch effort, ‘within 10 days of taking those pills, my mother was dead,’ says Lillis’ son, Christian.

Or consider Zachary Doubek, a rambunctious 12-year-old from New Brunswick, N.J. After a baseball game, Zachary came home complaining of knee pain that worsened overnight and quickly escalated. His doctor initially prescribed an antibiotic that failed to bring the problem under control. Zachary had the bad luck of running into a strain of bacteria that, after repeated exposure to antibiotics, had evolved, developing defenses against the drugs.”

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