Health Team

Antibiotic ointments may create drug-resistant bacteria

Posted September 15, 2011

Over-the-counter antibiotic creams like Neosporin have long been used to treat small cuts and scrapes. And while they may be good for healing, a new study suggests that overuse of over-the-counter antibiotics can lead to more drug-resistant strain of staph infections. 

The study found that overuse of such products could be creating new super strains of MRSA, the bacteria that causes mild to severe skin infections. In certain cases, MRSA can be deadly. 

Dr. Matthew Weissman, from the Ryan Nena Community Health Center, said the study provided some interesting insight into how treating cuts with antibiotics impacts the growth of resistant strains of bacteria. Oral antibiotics are no longer the only concern when looking at drug-resistant bacteria.

petri dish Only use ointment when indicated

"What was shocking in the study was that the areas that use more of the antibiotic ointment, specifically in the US, has more resistance than countries that used a lot less of the antibiotic ointment," Weissman said. 

For Gitu Ramani, the mother of two boys, the use of over-the-counter antibiotics is common. When her children get scrapes and cuts, she washes them with water and applies Neosporin. 

"I just feel when you hear antibiotic you think it' going to get rid of that little bit of infection that would be caused," Ramani said. "There are cuts and scrapes all the time, walking into doors, the dog scratching them, falling in the playground."

Weissman said keeping things simple is the best treatment for small cuts and scrapes. 

"Soap and water and a band aid is probably the most important treatment," he said. 

In the past, MRSA infections were most common in hospitals. But now the bacteria is turning up in gyms, locker rooms and day cares. Doctors recommend saving the antibiotics for more serious infections and said to look for redness, tenderness and fever as signs of infection.


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  • Arapaloosa Sep 19, 2011

    @heartandbrain, I don't know where you've been, but I've been hearing this sort of thing for years. Not necessarily Neosporin, but with all the anti-bacterial products in general.

  • djmlibra79 Sep 19, 2011

    We do not give the human immune system enough credit for what it is capable of. And in doing so we are making our our immune systems weaker and less effective and creating stronger bacteria through the "survival of the fittest" effect... Kids dont go outside and get dirty like they used to. People put antibiotic ointment on for even the most trivial wounds and run to the doctor for antibiotics for minor illnesses that will run their course in a few days anyway. If we keep this up there will come a point when we are no longer able to inhabit our own environment due the monstrous resilient bacteria that we are helping to create.

  • heartandbrain Sep 16, 2011

    I am concerned that we will take a single study that "suggests" that there "may" be an issue and propagate it as a fact and not as a possibility as the evidence "suggests". How about some supporting studies from different sources before we throw our ointments away.