Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

News update on the antibiotic resistance front


Sorry to have skipped for a couple of days, but I had a RTI -- that's a respiratory tract infection, or, to put it in English, a cold. I was at a conference in Miami, no less, and I had to at least minimally discharge my responsibilities in attending sessions where my work was discussed and presenting a poster. However, I was absolutely miserable and had no energy to do blog posts.

Do not grieve -- I'm feeling much better already. Many people in my situation go straight to their doctors and ask for antibiotics, and for reasons even I, who study physician-patient communication for a living, and not sure of, the doctors often comply with the request. This is a very bad idea because it is extremely unlikely the antibiotics will do the people any good - they have a viral infection - while misuse and overuse of antibiotics are threatening a global catastrophe.

One of many early warnings we're getting right now -- in addition to extremely drug resistant tuberculosis and methycyllin resistant staphylococcus aurea -- is drug resistant gonorrhea. This basically comes about because people receive inadequate courses of antibiotics, a function mostly of poor quality health care or over-the-counter dispensing of medications in low resource settings. The linked article from MSNBC says "Experts say the best way to reduce the risk of even greater resistance developing - beyond the urgent need to develop effective new drugs - is to treat gonorrhea with combinations of two or more types of antibiotic at the same time." That's sorta kinda true, but actually the best way is stop transmission in the first place by getting people to always use condoms. Which would also stop the HIV epidemic dead. Sigh. Not going to happen I expect. Ratzinger says it would be immoral.


On a happier note, I think you may only be able to read the first 150 words, but JAMA reporter Bridget Kuehn has the latest on FDA efforts to reduce use of antibiotics in animal feed. (I rooted around for a bit in the FDA web site but I couldn't track this down.) Unfortunately they are issuing "guidelines" for livestock producers to eliminate routine use of antibiotics in animal feed, rather than regulations. They figure, it they try to regulate, they'll get sued and it will take 20 years to work it out. So they're going with the voluntary guidelines. They are hopeful that the industry will think this is a great idea and go along with it. I'm not holding my breath but at least there is now some statement from the government that this will be in the public interest. Maybe that will help.

Meanwhile, if you come down with a cold, don't ask your doc for antibiotics.


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