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New antibiotic already developing resistance

An anti biotic, just a year old, which was developed to fight resistant bacteria, is already becoming stale as the bacteria are showing signs of resistance.

The drug linezolid is used to treat Enterococcus faecium (E. faecium) infections that are resistant to the old standby antibiotic vancomycin. The hope has been that the new drug would help tackle the growing problem of vancomycin-resistant enterococci infections. But in the April 14th issue of The Lancet, Chicago doctors report on five cases in which patients' infections became resistant to linezolid, as well.

Antibiotic resistance is a major problem worldwide, and hospitals are ground zero since infections and antibiotics are part of everyday life in these settings. Bacteria have an innate ability to mutate, and when they are repeatedly exposed to an antibiotic, they learn to change themselves in order to evade the drug. Bacteria that cause diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and meningitis have learned to outsmart standard treatments. Without new drugs, experts fear some bacterial infections will become untreatable.

Before 1989, no US hospitals had experienced vancomycin-resistant E. faecium infections. By 1993, however, more than 10% of these infections acquired in hospitals were resistant to treatment. Linezolid was approved in April 2000 for the treatment of vancomycin-resistant E. faecium. Hence, doctors advice a sensitivity test before starting a patient on linezolid.

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