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Growing Antibiotic Resistance Is Dire Concern, Health Experts Say

by Axios | 8.31.18

Countable asks: How should regulators respond to the growing threats associated with antibiotic resistance? Hit Take Action to tell your reps, then share your thoughts below. (Via: Axios)


Better screening and increased drug research into new antibiotics and antiviral medications are greatly needed to head off what some health experts say could be a future in which there will be no effective medications to fight common infections like gonorrhea, syphilis, E.coli and staph.

Why it matters: Antimicrobial resistance is currently projected to be the number one killer by 2050 — "outpacing even cancer" — according to Amy Mathers, assistant professor at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

The specter of increasingly drug-resistant diseases made news this week when CDC officials announced America reached a record high of new cases of sexually transmitted diseases. They also warned of increasing signs that one of the most common STDs, gonorrhea, is becoming more resistant to front-line antibiotics.

The threat: This disease has proven to be a "smart bug," developing resistance to multiple antibodies in the past, Elizabeth Torrone, who leads surveillance and special studies for CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, tells Axios.

  • If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause infertility, miscarriages, chronic pain and blindness in newborns.
  • Currently, there's one last antibiotic (ceftriaxone) that remains effective against the disease.
  • It's often prescribed as a dual therapy, with a single shot of ceftriaxone plus an oral dose of a second antibiotic (azithromycin), in an attempt to preserve the cefrtiaxone's effectiveness, Torrone says.
  • CDC officials warned they recently found an uptick in the portion of lab samples showing resistance to azithromycin — from 1% in 2013 to 4% in 2017.

Despite being a small percentage, this is a concern because genes from the resistant strains could crossover with gonorrhea genes and reduce its susceptibility to ceftriaxone, Torrone says.

Be smart: On the STD front, better and more frequent testing is needed to prevent the spread of the diseases in the first place, says Ursula Hessenflow, co-founder of myLAB Box, which offers home DNA testing for HPV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes and others. Hessenflow tells Axios:

"A big problem in the U.S. is people are simply avoiding STD testing in the first place. Failure to stem these infections includes lack of sex education, the cost, shame and inconvenience of regular testing in a lab, clinic or doctor’s office, and the fact that [STD] still carries great taboo."

What's needed is both better diagnostic testing and the development of new antibiotics, Mathers says. She says next-generation sequencing is where testing should head, so that physicians know which specific antibiotic is best to prescribe, instead of having the patient take multiple ones. Plus, she adds, this can help track antibiotic resistance more carefully.

The big picture: Gonorrhea is far from the only disease that scientists around the world are keeping a close eye on for antimicrobial resistance. Other diseases with growing resistance include syphilis, E.coli (particularly in urinary tract infections), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), tuberculosis and malaria, Mathers and Torrone say.

"This is a complicated problem," Mathers says. More antibiotic resistance research is needed not only in people, but also the role resistance plays in other areas like animal husbandry and wastewater.

"It's gotten much harder to treat patients over the last 10 years [due to antibiotic concerns]," Mathers says.

--Eileen Drage O'Reilly

(Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios)

Axios

Written by Axios

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(12)
  • burrkitty
    09/02/2018
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    Antibiotic resistant STD’s are on the rise, but let’s not teach comprehensive scientific sexual education despite the fact that it’s the proven method to reduce the rates of unwanted pregnancy and STD’s in teens because we would rather shame young adults into compliance with a MYTH.

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  • Azrael
    08/31/2018
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    Every damned thing you pick up is an antibacterial something Enough Let the kids play outside, get dirty, be exposed to real people not cyber people , have pets, get sick and develop immunities

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  • Monica
    08/31/2018
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    People need to STOP asking their doctors for antibiotics as treatment-for the common cold!

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  • Karen
    09/01/2018
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    People on fixed incomes, like we are, sometimes don’t take the full antibiotic course of medicine. The plan is to keep a few back to possibly avoid a future doctor appointment and expensive prescription. The backfire is the increase in resistance to those drugs. High prescription drug prices cause people to make poor choices.

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  • Marylynn
    09/01/2018
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    We need to tell our doctors enough is enough and stop doling out antibiotics like they're candy.

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  • J
    09/01/2018
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    Good reason to re-evaluate medical practice.

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  • Gordy
    08/31/2018
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    Wow, I’m hoping this is actually an issue that don’t go political cause it needs to be open to commen sense debate or this issue will end up like most things name calling and character asassination! This has been warned for many years antibiotics are in our water our food and we are a country who is addicted to simply taking a pill for everything and anything! The only solution or contribution I can add to this subject in good faith is to urge all (left and right) to NOT allow people to go political on this one, I truly believe this is going to be one of the greatest challenges for the human race!

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  • BeStrong
    09/03/2018
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    Why do physicians walk away unscathed here. They do have control over their own over-prescribing. For both antibiotics and Opiods. *Animal meats are chock full of antibiotics, start under consuming meats. *Over consumption of antibiotics, as well as irresponsible consumption (not completing the dosage as prescribed) as also causal factors. **And, we send our kids to driving classes but do not ensure their biological sexual education is for-filled. Safe sex, CONSENT-Zero tolerance for unwanted physical contact, and ‘unintended consequences’ and their lifelong impact. Life stuff.

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  • Dara
    09/02/2018
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    Stop over prescribing medications and allow immunities to address aches and pains.

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  • Jeanne
    09/03/2018
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    This is a complicated issue. Antibiotics need to be removed immediately from animal feed. Buy organic. Stop expecting your doctor or provider to prescribe antibiotics for your child’s cold or sinus infection. Teach safe sex in school and home. Remove antimicrobials from hand washing soap. It’s useless. Stop expecting to live forever. The loss of highly effective antibiotics is a warning to everyone. Pharmaceutical companies have virtually stopped research into new categories. The pipeline is dry. So with overuse for non infectious reasons and a dry pipeline, antimicrobial resistance is expected. Much more research is needed on this entire issue.

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  • Linda
    11/12/2018
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    Antibiotic resistance has been the fault of both patients and drs. Many patients don’t understand that just because they are feeling better doesn’t mean they are not still sick. The reason why the most antibiotic drugs are given over several days is pretty simple and basic microbiology. The first couple of days the least resistant organisms are killed. As the days go by, and more of the drug is taken, enough gets built up in the system to kill the more resistant cells. If the drug is stopped before the entire round is done, the more resistant cells can now multiply and pass on the gene that caused them to be more resistant to that particular antibiotic, which now renders that drug useless against that particular organism. The drs, especially the ones in the past, overprescribed antibiotics. They are not as quick to write a rX nowadays. Antibiotics do NOT work against viruses. When a person has a cold, it is caused by a virus, not a bacteria. The only thing to cure a cold is rest, good nutrition and time. Another product which has caused antibiotic resistance is antibacterial hand soaps. Unless you are going to work on an immunocompromised patient or other environments in which sterility is needed, antibiotic hand soaps are not needed. Plain, old fashioned soap and warm water works just fine. MDROs (multi disease resistant organisms) are becoming more and more common because of our misuse of antibiotics and products that contain them.

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