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Antibiotic Resistance

The idea of people dying from infections that were once easily cured may seem outlandish. But it is happening already — taking about 23,000 lives in the United States a year — and experts warn that things will get worse because bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics faster than we can make new drugs to fight back.

We have ourselves to blame, for overusing the drugs in people and squandering them on livestock. Now, a dangerous form of drug resistance has reached the United States, leaving us just one step away from infections that are completely untreatable.
- Sabrina Tavernise, Erica Goode, and Denise Grady, Short Answers to Hard Questions About Antibiotic Resistance, NYT, May 27, 2016


The World Health Organization warned on Monday that a dozen antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” pose an enormous threat to human health....

The rate at which new strains of drug-resistant bacteria have emerged in recent years, prompted by overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock, terrifies public health experts. ...

“We are fast running out of treatment options,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the W.H.O. assistant director general who released the list. “If we leave it to market forces alone, the new antibiotics we most urgently need are not going to be developed in time.”

Britain’s chief medical officer, Sally C. Davies, has described drug-resistant pathogens as a national security threat equivalent to terrorism....”

Last week, the European Food Safety Authority and European Center for Disease Prevention and Control estimated that superbugs kill 25,000 Europeans each year; the C.D.C. has estimated that they kill at least 23,000 Americans a year. (For comparison, about 38,000 Americans die in car crashes yearly.)

- DONALD G. McNEIL Jr., Deadly, Drug-Resistant ‘Superbugs’ Pose Huge Threat, W.H.O. Says, NYT, FEB. 27, 2017


Bacteria resistant to antibiotics turn up in turkey, pork chops and ground beef in the United States; in grocery store chickens in Britain; and at poultry farms in China. Antibiotic residues are found in groundwater, drinking water and streams, and in feedlot manure used as fertilizer.

Some 70 percent to 80 percent of American antibiotic sales go to livestock. In addition to the emergence of resistant disease strains, some microbiologists worry that the proliferation of antibiotics, despite their miraculous health benefits, is having a chaotic impact on microbes in the human gut. ...
Cattle, however, evolved to eat grass, and their time on a feedlot causes health complications. Hence the antibiotics. Tylosin controls liver abscesses, and Rumensin, another antibiotic feed additive, fights intestinal disease. ...
But Dr. Blaser’s career has largely been focused on a less talked about symptom of the proliferation of antibiotics: tracking disappearing microbes in the human gut. ...
Many were connecting specific diseases to the disappearance of particular gut microbes, often due to antibiotics. ...

Dr. Blaser turned reflective. ... ...
“It’s just like global warming,” he said of modern changes to our internal microbiology. “It’s a big ecological shift, except it’s happening within the human body.”

- Danny Hakim, At Hamburger Central, Antibiotics for Cattle That Aren’t Sick, NYT, March 23, 2018


After years of bombardment that has crippled the food supply, destroyed basic infrastructure and disrupted medical care, Yemen has become a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant disease, with potentially catastrophic consequences — and not just for Yemen. ...
Antibiotic consumption was already very high in the region. A 2014 study found a prevalence of nonprescription antibiotic use by 48 percent of the population in Saudi Arabia and 78 percent in Yemen. Syria was a major producer of antibiotics, both for itself and for export.

It’s a recipe for catastrophe: a struggling health system where antibiotics remain widely available with little oversight, combined with an overwhelming number of wounded in hospitals and weak hygiene and infection-control practices. Doctors in Yemen, struggling to treat the rush of patients, often use broad-spectrum antibiotics on even simple infections. “This creates a new generation of multidrug-resistant bacteria,” Dr. Mansoor said, and inadvertently sets the stage for a public health meltdown.

Diseases from the 19th century have re-emerged in force. Yemen faces the fastest-growing cholera outbreak ever recorded, with more than one million people affected, a quarter of them small children. Diphtheria has emerged as well.
- Sam Loewenberg, Will the Next Superbug Come From Yemen?, NYT, April 14, 2018



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