Doctors prescribe antibiotics by the millions each year in America, totaling to 842 prescriptions per every 1,000 patients that step into their office. These essential medicines destroy the growth of sickening bacteria that cause urinary tract infections, skin infections, pneumonia, and strep throat.

So what could be so bad about prescribing them so freely? Doctors’ liberal prescription practices have contributed to antibiotic resistance, a fairly recent phenomenon which may change the way doctors treat their everyday patients, and which has spurred health agencies to take new action.

Earlier in July, the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria met to discuss how to effectively curb the rise of resistant bacteria. Among the recommendations, experts believe limiting antibiotic prescriptions could help reduce resistance in the long run. Any strain of bacteria has the power to morph into a superbug.

Since the 1940s, doctors have been administering antibiotics to kill infectious organisms and keep the body safe from disease. But after 70 years of overuse, today’s bacterial infections are learning how to fight back against those antibiotics, earning them the name of “superbugs.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year at least 2 million people contract an antibiotic-resistant superbug, which leads to untreatable bacterial infections that kill roughly 23,000 patients.

One of the most life-threatening bacterium is a type of E.coli known as CRE (Carbapemem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae), which has become resistant to nearly all antibiotics used today. The CDC warns the strain has become an urgent public health threat, which leads to death in one out of every two patients that becomes infected.

These germs have essentially evolved into organisms that are adept at surviving antibiotics . The superbugs’ genomes have changed to become resistant and better at multiplying within the body, which means the more antibiotics you have taken over the course of your life, the less likely it is they can save you from infection.

For now, the CDC recommends certain healthy habits, such as washing your hands, preventing the spread of food-borne infections, keeping your water safe, staying up-to-date with vaccinations, and using safe-sex practices to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.