Losing the Medical Arms Race

Most of us have heard of the flesh eating bacteria that Aimee Copeland is currently recovering from. But how many people know that 47 % of meat sold in supermarkets in U.S. contained drug resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus (staph), according to a study conducted by Translational Genomics Research Institute? How about the two incidents in a Rhode Island hospital where a carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) form of Klebsiella was found? There are many “super bugs” cropping up around the world, and many of them are more common than necrotizing fasciitis (Flesh Eating Bacteria), which only occurs in about 1 in 453,333 people in the U.S. annually.

There is also the new H041 gonorrhea strain which is resistant to cephalosporin antibiotics. In fact, the FDA has severely restricted the use of cephalosporin in food animals as of this past January, because resistant strains of bacteria have been developing. Previously, it was a commonly used preventative antibiotic in livestock. No one wants to get super-gonorrhea because they ate a few cheeseburgers.

Cephalosporin is commonly used to treat pneumonia, as well as skin and soft tissue infections. It is often the only treatment option, which is what makes the H041 strain so dangerous. Gonorrhea is responsible for some 106 million infections annually, and in the U.S. 700,000 people get gonorrhea each year. The strain first appeared in Japan in 2011, and has since been found in Britain, Australia, France, Sweden and Norway.

Tuberculosis is also making a comeback. In 2007 a Georgia man was placed under quarantine after exposing two trans-Atlantic flights to an extensive drug-resistant strain of TB, known as XDR TB. Tuberculosis, also known as consumption, is still killing around 1.5 million people annually, according to the CDC. In 2010, 7.9% of TB cases for U.S. born citizens with no previous history of TB were resistant to Isoniazid (common drug treatment). Of U.S. born citizens with previous history of TB, the number was 17.4%.

Antibiotic overuse is a growing contributor to drug resistant bacteria. Not only does antibiotic fed livestock contribute, using antibiotics for a non-life threatening disease accelerates the germs’ evolution. Often antibiotics are used to treat upper respiratory syndromes, for example bronchitis, before the antibiotics are truly warranted. A study published in the Infectious Diseases In Clinical Practice Journal investigates the overuse of prescriptions. There is a tendency in medicine to over-treat illness, which can result in devastating consequences over the long run.

Additional Resources

CBS News WHO Warns of Gonorrhea Strain Resistant to Antibiotics: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57448055-10391704/world-health-organization-warns-of-gonorrhea-strain-resistant-to-antibiotics/

NPR Drug-Resistant Germ In Rhode Island Hospital Raises Worries: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/06/22/155589409/drug-resistant-germ-in-rhode-island-hospital-raises-worries?ft=1&f=1001&sc=tw&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Right Diagnosis Prevalence and Incidence of Necrotizing Fasciitis: http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/n/necrotizing_fasciitis/prevalence.htm

Fox News Flesh Eating Bacteria Survivor: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/06/25/flesh-eating-bacteria-victim-rolls-out-hospital-room-in-wheelchair/

FDA News Release Agency Issues Order Prohibiting Certain Uses in Food-Producing Animals: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm285704.htm

CBS News Drug-resistant bacteria found in half of U.S. meat: http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-204_162-20054211.html

Reuters U.S. Isolates Traveler Infected with Super-TB: http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/05/29/us-tuberculosis-usa-idUSN2934397420070529

CDC Tuberculosis Data and Statistics: http://www.cdc.gov/tb/statistics/default.htm

Infectious Disease In Clinical Practice Antibiotic Stewardship: http://journals.lww.com/infectdis/Abstract/2012/01000/Antibiotic_Stewardship__Using_Clinical_Guidelines.4.aspx

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