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Call to action: Running out of options to fight ever-changing 'super bugs'
Date:1/28/2009

People are dying from "super bugs" because our antibiotic arsenal has run dry, leaving the world without sufficient weapons to fight ever-changing bacteria, warn infectious disease researchers at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

In a Jan. 29 perspective in The New England Journal of Medicine, Barbara E. Murray, M.D., and Cesar Arias, M.D., Ph.D., evaluate the past, present and future response to preventing and treating "super bugs."

A "super bug" is an organism that is resistant to antibiotics. It can evade antibiotics by:

  • destroying the medication by producing an enzyme that devours the drug;
  • creating a barrier to the drug;
  • pumping out any antibiotic that reaches the bacterial cell;
  • modifying the target of the antibiotic so the drug can't bind to it.

"Most of the public has heard of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) because it produces the most cases each year. However, they have not heard of other super bugs that can be far worse," said Murray, co-author and director of Division of Infectious Diseases at the UT Medical School. "The Gram-negative bacteria are the most antibiotic-resistant with fewer treatment options in life-threatening diseases, such as certain forms of pneumonia, bloodstream infections, gastroenteritis and even meningitis." Gram-negative bacteria can release toxins created by their cell walls into the bloodstream, where it is harder to treat them.

According to a 2004 report, "Bad Bugs, No Drugs," by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), none of the 89 new drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were antibiotics. Murray and Arias say people are also taking antibiotics without prescriptions or not following the prescription as directed. It is those practices that allow the antibiotics to be exposed to a wide-range of bacteria in the body, both good and bad, which gives the bugs an opportunity to find w
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Contact: Melissa McDonald
Melissa.E.McDonald@uth.tmc.edu
713-500-3308
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Source:Eurekalert

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