Open thread: Antibiotic resistance


in Geek stuff, Science

I frequently see interesting stories about antibiotic resistance, and it seems to be quite an important issue. Back in 2008, I wrote about a Canadian initiative to try to deal with the dangerous bugs.

More recently, tuberculosis has progressed from extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) to “totally drug-resistant TB” (TDR-TB).

We are going to need some new antibiotics.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

AnonYnous March 21, 2012 at 9:10 am

Good thing evolution is a hoax right?

. April 16, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Ancient antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in isolated cave

Bacteria that have never before come in contact with humans, their diseases or their antibiotics, but are nevertheless resistant to a variety of antibiotics, have been discovered in a U.S. cave.

“This supports a growing understanding that antibiotic resistance is natural, ancient,” and an integral part of the genetic heritage of microbes, suggest researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. and the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, in a new study published this week in the journal PLoS ONE.

Scientists have long debated the relative roles of humans and nature in the evolution and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can pose a serious problem in the treatment of diseases.

In order to figure out how ancient and naturally widespread antibiotic resistance is, some researchers have been trying to study bacteria in environments highly isolated from human activity, such as a part of Lechuguilla Cave in Carlsbad Cavern National Park in New Mexico. It has been cut off from any input from the surface for four million to seven million years. The area is so deep and difficult to access that researchers had to camp there while collecting samples, said a news release from McMaster University.

. June 6, 2012 at 7:34 am

Untreatable gonorrhoea spreading around world: WHO

(Reuters) – Drug-resistant strains of gonorrhoea have spread to countries across the world, the U.N. health agency said on Wednesday, and millions of patients may run out of treatment options unless doctors catch and treat cases earlier.

Scientists reported last year finding a “superbug” gonorrhoea strain in Japan that is resistant to all recommended antibiotics and warned then that it could transform a once easily treatable infection into a global health threat.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said those fears are now reality, with many more countries around the world, including Australia, France, Norway, Sweden and Britain, reporting cases of the sexually transmitted disease resistant to cephalosporin antibiotics – normally the last option for drugs against gonorrhoea.

. June 17, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Superbug Blog >> Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea: WHO Agrees It’s An Emergency

The World Health Organization has weighed in on the growing threat from antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, saying in a statement this morning (emailed, and apparently not online):

“Millions of people with gonorrhoea may be at risk of running out of treatment options unless urgent action is taken, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Already several countries, including Australia, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom are reporting cases of resistance to cephalosporin antibiotics — the last treatment option against gonorrhoea. Every year an estimated 106 million people are infected.”

The statement arrived as an adjunct to the launch of the WHO’s new global action plan for controlling the spread of resistant gonorrhea.

If you’ve been reading here for a while, the problem of resistant gonorrhea won’t be new to you. (Here are some past posts on data from the CDC and a call to action in the New England Journal of Medicine, along with a piece I wrote in Scientific American and a separate post by my SciAm editor Christine Gorman.) But in case you’ve just come in:

Since the late 1990s, a very small group of researchers worldwide has been sounding the alarm about gonorrhea becoming resistant to the last group of drugs, cephalosporins, that can cure the disease in an outpatient setting. That is, the drugs can be given by mouth and usually take a single dose or a small number of doses to effect a cure. Those requirements are important because they are the conditions on which community-clinic STD control is based. Community programs — single visits to low-cost clinics where drugs are dispensed relatively quickly — is what keeps the cost of STD control from spinning into unaffordability.

. July 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Drugmakers and antibiotics
The path of least resistance
Governments reckon that drug firms’ research efforts need a shot in the arm

A GROWING worry in medicine is bugs’ increasing resistance to antibiotics. At AstraZeneca’s research centre near Boston, scientists toil to find new weapons. Machines screen thousands of drugs each year, robotic arms nimbly handling plates of compounds to test their effect on bacteria. But progress is slow. “It is not our hottest area in terms of commercial return,” admits Martin Mackay, AstraZeneca’s research and development chief.

Help is on the way. On May 8th the European Commission and Europe’s pharmaceutical association gave details of a plan to boost antibiotics research by up to €590m ($760m). The same day in America, a congressional committee weighed measures with a similar goal. The attention is welcome. Its effect is less clear.

. April 23, 2013 at 10:25 pm

The report is more worrying on the subject of antibiotics. These wonder-pills have saved more lives than almost any other invention. But there are signs that they are losing some of their potency, thanks in part to rampant overuse. The number of infections that are resistant to treatment by antibiotics is on the rise, a problem that may cost America’s health system between $21 billion and $34 billion a year. And the pace of development of new antibiotics is slowing, as drug firms shift their attention to chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension or to new technologies such as nanotechnology.

The report argues that it should be much harder to get hold of antibiotics. Consider China, where many hospitals make much of their income from selling the drugs they prescribe. One study found that 98% of children with the common cold at a Beijing hospital were given antibiotics—which are useless for treating viral infections. In India strong antibiotics are sold without a prescription. Almost everywhere antibiotics are overused in farming fish and livestock. The WEF also argues that companies and non-profits need to collaborate more to develop more drugs. GlaxoSmithKline and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have both acted as pioneers here through their “open lab” approach to research. Glaxo has opened its Tres Cantos research facilities to academic and government scientists in order to collaborate on discovering new antibiotics. The Gates Foundation has organised an accelerator programme that brings together research teams from academia and private companies such as Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Eli Lilly and Glaxo.

. September 26, 2013 at 10:32 pm

The Search for New Antibiotics

. February 3, 2014 at 11:40 pm
. April 20, 2014 at 10:14 pm
. July 9, 2016 at 1:42 pm

Neisseria gonorrhoeae is another bug that has repeatedly developed resistance to antibiotics. When penicillin was first introduced it worked very well against gonorrhoea. When its effectiveness began to fall, it was replaced by tetracyclines. Those gave way to fluoroquinolones, and those, in turn, to cephalosporins. Now, some strains can be tackled only with a combination of ceftriaxone, a cephalosporin, and azythromicin, an azalide. There is nothing else in the locker.

Humans are not the first of Earth’s creatures to want to kill bugs. Fungi don’t make penicillin for fun, they do it to protect themselves from certain bacteria. The existence of these natural bug-killers has been a great help to human medicine; many of the 20-odd classes of antibiotic used medically are derived from them. But it also means that today’s bugs are not facing entirely new threats. There are often resistance genes tailored to abiding threats lurking, at a low level, in bacterial populations, waiting for their hour to come.

There are reasons for drug firms not to invest in antibiotics. Such companies increasingly prefer treatments for chronic diseases, not acute ones; the customers stick around longer. And despite the growing problem of resistance, most antibiotics still work for most things most of the time. Given that the incumbents are also cheap, because they are off-patent, new drugs cannot earn back their development costs. Even if they could, it would be poor public policy to let them; much better for new drugs to be used only sparingly, to forestall the development of further resistance. That further puts the kibosh on sales.

. September 19, 2016 at 9:56 am

Losing antibiotics is a global threat

THE UNITED Nations General Assembly will hold its first high-level meeting Wednesday on the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance — the tendency of bacteria to fight back against antibiotics. This is a rare example of the world body devoting time to a public-health issue, and though concrete results may be a long way off, the event itself suggests a stirring awareness that it is a global threat.

. April 21, 2017 at 10:31 pm

Doctors are warning that the rise of an almost untreatable superbug, immune to some of the last-line antibiotics available to hospitals, poses a serious threat to patients.

The number of lab-confirmed cases of the bug, called carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE), rose from three to nearly 2,000 in the 12 years to 2015, according to Public Health England (PHE). But that may be far short of the real number because hospitals are not compelled to report suspected cases. PHE admits it does not know where the infections are coming from or how many people are dying.

. April 21, 2017 at 10:32 pm

CPE, dubbed the “nightmare bacteria” by Tom Frieden, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA, has developed resistance to the carbapenems, a group of “last resort” antibiotics that are used in serious infections when other drugs will not work. They include KPC (Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase) and NDM (New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase)

. June 30, 2017 at 1:55 pm

A new antibiotic for drug-resistant tuberculosis

A bug that infects people with cystic fibrosis may yield a treatment for TB

. July 27, 2017 at 9:36 pm

No evidence that finishing your antibiotics reduces resistance, researchers say

Authors say despite good intentions, the practice could actually increase antibiotic resistance

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