The antibiotic crisis: More dire warnings but no solution in sight

buy_antibioticsWe at ACSH have written frequently about an unmitigated disaster that has already begun the progressive failure of available antibiotics to tackle previously treatable bacterial infections.

Yesterday the CDC issued a report about this, and it was more of the same.

According to their report, 2 million Americans develop some sort of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection each year, resulting in at least 23 thousand deaths. (Note: previous CDC estimates have put this number at 100 thousand, and the reasons for this difference are complex and unclear).

Regardless of the actual number, says ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom, who has written extensively on this issue, We are now entering the stage where this problem, even though it has been known for well over a decade, will really hit home. Otherwise healthy people will go into the hospital and contract an infection that was previously treatable. Many will not come out alive.

For example, perhaps the most insidious pathogen called CRE (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae) will kill 50 percent of hospital patients who contract it. This makes the better known MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) seem like the common cold.

"This is scary stuff, and we want people to know about it. noted Dr. Steve Solomon, director of the CDC s Office of Antimicrobial Resistance. He adds, "Patients need to understand that antibiotics are not the solution for every illness. It's important that people not take antibiotics when they aren't necessary.

To which Dr. Bloom comments, Yes overuse of antibiotics is one factor in the development of resistance, but it s important to keep in mind that the horse is already out of the barn. Once resistant bacteria take hold, they are here to stay. If the whole world stopped using antibiotics tomorrow, the resistant bacteria would still persist. The real problem is that antibiotic research came to a screeching halt in the 1990s due to a terribly misguided change in the FDA s requirements for clinical trials for new antibiotics, essentially driving most of the drug companies out of the business.

You can read Dr. Bloom s New York Post op-ed entitled Searching for the Wrong Miracles here. Also, we recommend that you check out ACSH advisor Dr. David Shlaes insightful blog called Antibiotics The Perfect Storm.