Holding the Ground on Super Bugs

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , June 17, 2010

Also, improved diagnostics will help curb overuse of antibiotics, she said, by allowing physicians to determine whether a patient has a bacterial infection and, if so, whether it is resistant to conventional antibiotics.

Educating providers—and patients—about the overuse of antibiotics has been important, said Sandra Fryhofer, MD, a member of the American Medical Association's Council on Science and Public Health. However, the use of antibiotics for the treatment of pediatric acute otitis media has not subsided despite the issuance of a watchful waiting guidance from the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics six years ago.

Unfortunately, the issue that will not go away is that new drugs that battle antibiotic resistance need to be created. Many pharmaceutical manufacturers, though, have been increasingly reluctant to move in such a direction because of high costs and low returns on investment.

Thus, "innovative incentives" must be developed, Fryhofer said, to foster “continued research and development of novel antibiotics to make sure that these important tools that combat infectious diseases remain available for future generations of physicians."

One AMA proposal, announced Wednesday at its annual meeting, is to educate the public about antibiotic resistance and to create incentives for manufacturers to develop 10 new antibiotics by 2020.

But will that be soon enough? Take the case of the new antibiotic linezolid—considered one of the few effective antibiotics to fight severe MRSA infections. However, in new research reported this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, new cases have been reported already of linezolid resistant Staphylococcus aureus (LRSA) in Spain, Germany, Brazil, and even the U.S.

As far as super bugs are concerned, the fight continues.

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Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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