- WASHINGTON -- Better detection and surveillance of infections, as well
as new drugs and vaccines, will be the only way to fight a coming plague
of "superbugs" that resist all current drugs, experts in infectious
disease said on Monday.
- Sen. Edward Kennedy, who co-chaired the
meeting, said he and Frist would pursue the issues in Congress next year
- But just as important, they told a hearing
sponsored by two U.S. senators, is persuading people to stop demanding
antibiotics, and getting doctors to stop prescribing them when they know,
or even suspect, they will do no good.
- Otherwise, more and more bacteria will
emerge that can fight off all known drugs - and more people will die from
- "From 1980 to 1992, the death rate
from infectious diseases rose nearly 60 percent," said Bill Frist,
a Republican senator from Tennessee who called the informal meeting.
- "Our arsenal of drugs seems to be
failing us and ... it's often a race to beat the clock to find the appropriate
drug to treat a raging infection," added Frist, himself a surgeon.
- "We feel this is an urgent situation
and requires lots of effort by lots of different players," added Dr.
Jeffery Koplan, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
- "This is both rampant throughout
the United States and it's a global problem." Koplan said 70 percent
of bacteria involved in infections that people get while in the hospital
are now resistant to at least one antibiotic.
- But the true figures may not be known,
as there is no national system for quickly sharing information.
- "Drug-resistant infections are not
reportable in most states," Koplan said. "We still have no coordinated
national system for the surveillance of antibiotic resistance."
Senator Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who co-chaired the meeting,
said he and Frist would pursue the issues in Congress next year.
- Koplan said it would not be an easy task.
"We need to renovate and revitalise our public health infrastructure.
Many of our local health departments are not on the Internet. We are talking
about some basic things." The Internet would help doctors swap
information quickly. If there is a mystifying case of a drug-resistant
infection in one state, it would be useful to know if it is happening somewhere
else. "You can get on top of it fast," Koplan said.
- Another barrier - it can take days to
diagnose a case of "superbug" infection, because doctors do not
have quick tests. Many prescribe antibiotics in the hope that an infection
will respond in the time it takes to send off a test to see just what the
infectious agent is, and get the results back.