Sunday | November 19, 2017
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The bugs are coming

The World Health Organization came out last week with a warning resistance to antibiotics has become a “major threat to public health.” Bacteria are evolving so rapidly antibiotics are, in many cases, losing their power and infections are becoming untreatable. In the latest report, the WHO found the problem has touched every region of the world.

When the class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones was introduced in the 1980s, they were used in the treatment of urinary tract infections caused by E. coli, but today, there are countries where these drugs do not work in more than half the patients. ...

Why is this happening?

Antibiotics have been overused for decades because of naivete or wishful thinking the supply was endless and they would always work. From the 1950s until about the 1980s, drugs were developed at such a pace it seemed resistance could be overcome by the discovery of new therapies.

Now, the pipeline of new antibiotics is running dry. Overuse has bred resistance. The bacteria are doing what they have done for millennia: evolve and adapt, gaining mechanisms to fight antibiotics. ...

To deal with resistance, it must be better understood. But the WHO warns surveillance systems and data collection — the early-warning systems — are, in many cases, woefully inadequate. ...

For years, alarms have been ringing about antibiotic resistance. ... The WHO reminded us that it is not a distant threat. It is next door, today.

— Washington Post


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