Tuesday, 12 April 2011

TUBERCULOSIS: Some facts on drug-resistant "superbugs"

Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Laura MacInnis: Apr 7 2011
LONDON (Reuters) - Some of the world's most powerful medicines are losing the war against drug-resistant strains of HIV, gonorrhea, tuberculosis and other microbes, global health experts said on Thursday.
"People assume that antibiotics will always be there to fight the worst infections, but antimicrobial resistance is robbing us of that certainty and new drug-resistant pathogens are emerging," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Thursday.
"It's not enough to hope that we'll have effective drugs to combat these infections. We must all act now to safeguard this important resource," Frieden said in a statement released to coincide with World Health Day.

Here are some facts from the CDC about antimicrobial resistance and what people can do to prevent it.
* Scope of the problem: Antimicrobial resistance occurs when germs change in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of drugs to treat them. This happens when antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and other medications are used too liberally. About half of antimicrobial drugs -- antibiotics in particular -- are used unnecessarily or inappropriately prescribed in U.S. hospitals and in doctors' offices, the CDC says. The best approach to preserving those drugs is to use them only when needed.
* Cost: The United States spends more than $1.1 billion a year on unnecessary antibiotics for respiratory infections in adults. Antibiotic-resistant infections are responsible for $20 billion in excess healthcare costs and $35 billion in costs to society, such as lost wages, plus 8 million additional hospital days.
* HIV: Studies suggest 4 to 20 percent of newly diagnosed HIV patients have transmitted a drug-resistant infection. A 2007 study of HIV patients in the United States found one of every six newly diagnosed infections was drug-resistant. Doctors can help by testing for resistance before prescribing drugs, and patients can help by taking their drugs as prescribed and practicing safe sex.
* Malaria: Worldwide, there were an estimated 225 million malaria infections and 780,000 deaths in 2009. Most deaths were of children in Africa. Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous of the malaria parasites, has developed resistance in nearly all areas of the world where it is transmitted.
* Gonorrhea: More than 700,000 people in the United States become infected with gonorrhea each year, and the infection is showing increasing signs of antibiotic resistance. In 2009, 23.5 percent of gonorrhea strains showed resistance to penicillin, tetracycline, fluoroquinolones, or a combination of those antibiotics. Cephalosporins are the only class of antibiotics left, and preliminary data suggest resistant strains may be emerging. To fight this, the CDC is working with the National Institutes of Health to find other drugs to treat gonorrhea.
* Tuberculosis: About 1.3 percent of all U.S. TB cases reported in 2009 were multiple drug-resistant, or MDR, TB, and there has been one reported case of extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB. With MDR or XDR-TB, the standard cocktail of antibiotics does not work and stronger medicines must be used, often for a longer time. Surgery may also be required to remove pockets of infection. To prevent the spread of drug-resistant TB, patients need to take all of their medications exactly as prescribed.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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