Superbugs That Resist
All Current Drugs Are Coming
By Maggie Fox
Reuters Health
WASHINGTON -- Better detection and surveillance of infections, as well as new drugs and vaccines, will be the only way to fight a coming plague of "superbugs" that resist all current drugs, experts in infectious disease said on Monday.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, who co-chaired the meeting, said he and Frist would pursue the issues in Congress next year
But just as important, they told a hearing sponsored by two U.S. senators, is persuading people to stop demanding antibiotics, and getting doctors to stop prescribing them when they know, or even suspect, they will do no good.
Otherwise, more and more bacteria will emerge that can fight off all known drugs - and more people will die from such infections.
"From 1980 to 1992, the death rate from infectious diseases rose nearly 60 percent," said Bill Frist, a Republican senator from Tennessee who called the informal meeting.
"Our arsenal of drugs seems to be failing us and ... it's often a race to beat the clock to find the appropriate drug to treat a raging infection," added Frist, himself a surgeon.
"We feel this is an urgent situation and requires lots of effort by lots of different players," added Dr. Jeffery Koplan, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This is both rampant throughout the United States and it's a global problem." Koplan said 70 percent of bacteria involved in infections that people get while in the hospital are now resistant to at least one antibiotic.
But the true figures may not be known, as there is no national system for quickly sharing information.
"Drug-resistant infections are not reportable in most states," Koplan said. "We still have no coordinated national system for the surveillance of antibiotic resistance." Senator Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who co-chaired the meeting, said he and Frist would pursue the issues in Congress next year.
Koplan said it would not be an easy task. "We need to renovate and revitalise our public health infrastructure. Many of our local health departments are not on the Internet. We are talking about some basic things." The Internet would help doctors swap information quickly. If there is a mystifying case of a drug-resistant infection in one state, it would be useful to know if it is happening somewhere else. "You can get on top of it fast," Koplan said.
Another barrier - it can take days to diagnose a case of "superbug" infection, because doctors do not have quick tests. Many prescribe antibiotics in the hope that an infection will respond in the time it takes to send off a test to see just what the infectious agent is, and get the results back.