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Smarten Up About Antibiotics, CDC Urges
Date:11/19/2010

o recent reports of sinusitis caused by MRSA, Hicks said that "people who would normally be treated with an oral antibiotic are requiring more toxic medications or, in some instances, admission to a hospital. We've seen this with pneumonia, too, and I worry we'll start to see it with other types of infections as well."

Other infections that resist antibiotic treatment include:

  • E. coli. A new strain, ST131, was a major cause of serious resistant infections in the United States in 2007, a study published this year in Clinical Infectious Diseases found. If the strain gains one more resistance gene, the study said, it may become almost untreatable.
  • Gonorrhea. Only one last class of antibiotics -- cephalosporin--is recommended to treat this sexually transmitted disease.
  • XDR-TB (extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis). While many TB strains resist at least one antibiotic used to treat them, XDR-TB is resistant to virtually all of them.

Just as antibiotic resistance is rising, the antibiotic arsenal is shrinking. The FDA has approved just 10 new antibiotics since 1998. "But in our opinion, it's as important to improve [antibiotic] use as it is to develop new drugs," said Srinivasan.

Antibiotic resistance has two main causes, said Philip Tierno, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University's Langone Medical Center. The first is overprescribing.

"About six billion prescriptions are written annually in this country, about half of them for antibiotics," he said. "Of those written for antibiotics, the CDC thinks about half are improper."

Second, food animals such as chickens, cattle and hogs are given massive amounts of antibiotics, mainly to spur growth. "Of the 25 million pounds of antibiotics given to livestock per year, only three million pounds are given to treat disease," said Tierno. Earlier this year, concerns about antibiotic resistance l
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