The subject of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been beaten over the head, but for good reason. Like climate change, scientists have been warning about bacterial resistance — and the possibility of previously eradicated diseases reemerging — for years. But doctors are still overprescribing antibiotics and patients are still misusing them. A new easy-to-use antibiotic, however, called oritavancin, may help us control antibiotic use at least a bit more.

The drug diverges from the usual antibiotic regimen. Instead of patients undergoing a 10-day, twice-daily regimen of antibiotic treatment, they would only have to take one dose of oritavancin. The antibiotic was developed by researchers at Duke Medicine in order to get around a common problem many patients have: They stop taking the antibiotic at some point during their treatment because they feel better. But the antibiotic usually isn’t finished with its job, which results in the bacteria not only coming back, but developing a resistance to the medication. Oritavancin makes it easier to get rid of infections.

“The prolonged activity is what makes oritavancin distinctive,” Dr. G. Ralph Corey said in a press release. “The drug has a long half-life, which allows for single-dose treatment.” Corey is lead author of the three-year study, which was funded by oritavancin’s owner, The Medicines Company.

Oritavancin would be useful for treating a range of bacterial skin infections, including those caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a particularly hardy and easily spreadable bacteria. MRSA infections typically look like spider bites, but quickly worsen, becoming red, swollen, and full of pus — they may also cause fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study, which involved two separate trials, tested oritavancin in almost 2,000 patients. The results of the first trial were published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday. The researchers found that a single intravenous (IV) dose of oritavancin on a group of 475 patients was just as effective as twice-daily IV doses of vancomycin for seven to 10 days. The drug reduced the size of infected wounds by 20 percent within the first three days, and reduced the severity of fever. The results will soon be presented to the Food and Drug Administration.

“Having a single-dose drug could potentially prevent hospitalizations or reduce the amount of time patients would spend in the hospital,” Corey said in the press release.

MRSA infections can be prevented with proper hygiene. Simply using antibacterial soap and ointment lowers risk of infections in the ICU — they’re most prevalent in health care settings — by 37 percent, a study from last year found. The CDC also suggests keeping your personal items to yourself, and not sharing towels and razors. Most importantly, if you think you have an infection, get checked as soon as possible.

Source: Corey G, Kabler H, Mehra P, et al. NEJM. 2014.