Bacteria Are Winning Fight Against Drugs

In the March 10, 2003 issue of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution there was an article that warns of the ever increasing drug resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. The article starts off by saying, "Antibiotic resistance is increasing swiftly among the bacteria that cause meningitis, pneumonia, bloodstream infections, sinusitis and childhood ear infections." The article reports on a study published in the March 9, 2003 issue of the British journal, Nature Medicine.

Researchers say that the increase is up from about 9 percent in 1996. It is estimated that at the current rate of increase, more than 40 percent of all such infections will be resistant to at least two widely used antibiotics, penicillin and erythromycin, by the middle of next year.

The increasing fear is that people will become infected with resistant strains of bacteria. Cynthia Whitney, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and a co-author of the study reports "Most of the increases in resistance appears to be related to outpatient prescribing practices." It is the overuse of antibiotics that has been generally blamed for the ever increased resistance of bacteria to even the newest antibiotics.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reported on a 43-state survey of hospital intensive care units last month that showed the bacteria responsible for serious urinary tract infections and hospital-acquired pneumonia have grown increasingly resistant to Cipro, one of the newest and most widely used antibiotics. It was additionally reported that public health authorities in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston have reported outbreaks of a drug-resistant form of staph, which can be spread on contact.

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Hospitals are now noticing that some highly resistant "superbugs" have become resistant to all major types of antibiotics. This presents a problem that makes once treatable infections sometimes fatal putting some of the sickest patients in hospitals at serious risk. The issue has become so critical that a nationwide campaign has been initiated by the CDC and medical associations to persuade doctors and patients to use antibiotics more judiciously. Many doctors now refuse to prescribe antibiotics for colds and other upper respiratory viral infections, which are unaffected by antibiotics.