Antibiotics losing race against resistant superbugs

January 29th, 2009 - 12:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 29 (IANS) People are dying of superbugs because the antibiotic armoury has run dry, leaving one unprotected from the depredations of ever-changing bacteria, warned infectious disease researchers. A superbug can evade antibiotics by producing an enzyme that devours the drug; creating a barrier to the drug; pumping out any antibiotic that reaches the bacterial cell and modifying the target of the antibiotic so the drug can’t bind to it.

“Most of the public has heard of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) because it produces the most cases each year. However, they have not heard of other superbugs that can be far worse,” said Barbara E. Murray, co-author and director of Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas Medical School (UTMS).

“The gram-negative bacteria are the most antibiotic-resistant with fewer treatment options in life-threatening diseases, such as certain forms of pneumonia, bloodstream infections, gastroenteritis and even meningitis,” she said.

Gram-negative bacteria can release toxins created by their cell walls into the bloodstream, where it is harder to treat them.

According to a 2004 report, “Bad Bugs, No Drugs”, by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), none of the 89 new drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration were antibiotics.

Murray and co-author Cesar Arias said people are also taking antibiotics without prescriptions or not following the prescription as directed, said an UTMS release.

“We have run out of options. The promise of genomics has not panned out. Gene sequencing has not helped us find a better way to fight these bugs,” said Murray.

These findings were published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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