Posted by margaret
on June 13, 2000 at 04:22:09:
This was just reported on CBS news this evening and I pulled it off their web
site...It should be of interest to the group.
Another reason why we need to do everything we can to keep our immune systems as
strong as possible.
WHO Issues Dose Of Reality
Antibiotics Are Losing Their Power Over Viruses, Bacteria What Doesn't Kill Bugs
Makes Them Stronger Penicillin, Tetracycline No Longer Work Against Gonorrhea
Classic survival of the fittest: Bacteria, parasites and viruses all evolve to
(CBS) The World Health Organization warns increasingly drug-resistant infections
in rich and developing nations alike are threatening to make once-treatable
diseases incurable, CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin reports.
Scientists have been urging action for years to fight the growing problem of
infections becoming impervious to treatment. The WHO's new report adds to the
"We're losing windows of opportunity," said WHO infectious diseases chief Dr.
David Heymann. "It's something we have to really address immediately or we're
going to start losing our antibiotics."
"This is a major problem for us, and it isn't going to go away," added Dr.
Jeffrey Koplan, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
in Atlanta, who helped the WHO unveil the report. "We use the same antibiotics
as other countries do," so resistance in one country is bad news for everybody.
Bacteria, parasites and viruses all naturally evolve to fight treatment. It's
classic survival of the fittest: Bugs exposed to drugs that don't kill them
become stronger, able to withstand subsequent treatment attempts, and pass on
that drug resistance to their next generation.
Misuse of medications, particularly antibiotics, speeds this process.
In developed countries, people often overuse antibiotics, demanding them for
viruses like colds. The body always harbors germs, so each unneeded antibiotic
dose is an opportunity for them to evolve. U.S. and Canadian doctors are
estimated to overprescribe antibiotics by 50 percent, the WHO report said.
"Patients have to stop stockpiling them and demanding them. Doctors have to be
able to look the patient in the eye and say, 'You have a cold. You don't need an
antibiotic, '" said Dr. Stuart Levy, Tufts University School of Medicine.
Impoverished developing countries have the opposite problem. Many patients can't
afford the full course needed to cure an infection. Antibiotics may be sold at
market stalls where people buy a few doses without a doctor's exam. In Vietnam
in 1997, researchers found more than 70 percent of patients were prescribed
inadequate doses to cure serious infections.
Then there's misinformation: In the Philippines, people mistakenly use low doses
of an anti-tuberculosis drug as a "lung vitamin," the WHO said.
Animals add to the problem. Half the world's antibiotics are used on the farm,
sometimes to treat illness but mostly to help healthy animals grow bigger. That
encourages drug-resistant germs that cause food poisoning, THE WHO said.
What effect does all this have? Among the report's sobering examples:
Gonorrhea was once easily curable with penicillin and tetracycline. "Today, you
can't touch it anywhere in the world with those drugs," Heymann said. Poor
nations can't afford more expensive alternatives and, to make matters worse,
untreated gonorrhea is fueling spread of the AIDS virus.
In Estonia, Latvia, and parts of Russia and China, more than 10 percent of
tuberculosis patients have strains resistant to two powerful medicines. Overall,
up to 2 percent of the world's 16 million TB sufferers have multi-drug resistant
strains, particularly frightening because TB is airborne, spread when people
Malaria, the mosquito-spread infection that kills a million people a year, is
resistant to the top medication 80 percent of the time.
Some 5,000 Americans may have suffered longer-lasting food poisoning in 1998
from drug-resistant germs in chicken.M
"Every bacterial agent has learned over the last-- not so long-50 years to
resist the most potent of our antibiotics," said Dr. Levy.
Nobody counts deaths from drug-resistant infections. The CDC says 88,000
Americans a year die of infections they catch in the hospital, and many are
resistant to at least one antibiotic, complicating treatment attempts.
Wiser use of antimicrobial drugs is the solution, the WHO said. It recommended
increased funding to help poor countries afford enough antibiotics, and
education for poor and rich nations alike to avoid misuse.
The WHO also recommended that human antibiotics not be used as growth promoters
for animals. Europe already has banned several such drugs. The U.S. Food and
Drug Administration has debated stricter rules here for several years, but is
under industry pressure not to tighten animal drug restrictions.
As the WHO urges more education and prudent use of antibiotics to reverse drug
resistance, the race is on to develop new drugs.