MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming a growing problem around the world, and are a particular worry in hospital-acquired infections.
"In U.S. hospitals today there are reported to be upward of 2.5 million infections annually for people who came to a hospital to be treated for one thing, but before they are sent home they've acquired a secondary infection," said Lynn Hancock, assistant professor in the Division of Biology at Kansas State University.
Hancock was awarded nearly $1.5 million for the next five years from the National Institutes of Health, Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to investigate the antibiotic resistance of enterococci, a type of bacteria commonly found in hospitals.
Hancock said 10 to 12 percent of hospital-acquired infections, called nosocomial infections, are from enterococcus. Although not as severe or as numerous as the more commonly known staph infection, doctors are running out of therapeutic options for enterococcal infections.
"Some are resistant to just about every antibiotic we can throw at them and we are going to reach an era that many doctors and scientists think will be similar to the pre-antibiotic era, when we didn't have any way to really treat an infection," Hancock said. "Sadly, we don't do an adequate job of reporting the cause of death from infection; in many cases it is simply reported as complications from surgery."
On paper the numbers seem impersonal. However, Hancock has young children and has become fully aware of the possibility that they will grow up in a world that is teeming with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
"As a father with young kids you worry about what they might get exposed to at school," Hancock said. "Not just enterococci but many other bacteria are evolving resistance to antibiotics, and if the most suitable antibiotic is not working anymore, it just prolongs the process of trying to overcome the
|Contact: Lynn Hancock|
Kansas State University