Monday, July 20, 2015

"Consumer Reports" discusses the rapid development of antibiotic resistance

Consumer Reports has an important piece “The Rise of Superbugs”, on p. 20 of the August 2015 print issue, as part of its “America’s Antibiotic Crisis”, link here.  We're entering a post-antibiotic era that will require new incentives for drug companies and much more forbearance from patients than I experienced.  There's a "herd" problem comparable to the issues of the vaccine debate. 
I’ll note that as a young adult I had a few strep throats.  Injected penicillin used to work, as it did for a left-side tonsillitis in 1982.  Then in April 1983, I got a similar infection on both sides, and penicillin didn’t work, but oral erythromycin did.  I had a milder episode in 1984,, but haven’t needed a major antibiotic for pharyngitis since, in 30 years, so I much have developed some immunity to streptococcus.
In the summer of 1991, I had what might have been intestinal e-coli, which went away on its own in a few weeks (along with the nausea, diarrhea and weight loss), but this could have been more serious.
In 1998, when I had hip surgery for an acetabular fracture after a fall in a convenience store, I remember getting Bactrim for accompanying urinary tract infection.
In 2004, I got a bizarre lower jaw infection that was successfully treated with clindamycin, which the CR article reports as dangerous for some people, wiping out good bacteria and leading to worse infections.  One could consider eating yogurt while taking antibiotics.
A couple times a few years ago I got Azythromycin for fluid in the ear (a three table course) and swimmer’s ear, but this might not have been necessary.
But it’s true, that the “sandpaper throat” that precedes a cold is viral, and should not be treated with antibiotics.  It will disappear in two days on its own.
Infection control in hospitals – and the degree of hand washing and scrubbing required – could become a growing issue that we haven’t heard the last of.  Maybe laser sterilization methods for skin could be developed, but would doctors want to use them?

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