What you can do about antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Here’s some of links to articles about the growth of MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Quite a lot of interest in this given the recent paper by Dr. Monina Klevens et al at the CDC which concluded:

“Based on 8,987 observed cases of MRSA and 1,598 in-hospital deaths among patients with MRSA, we estimate that 94,360 invasive MRSA infections occurred in the United States in 2005; these infections were associated with death in 18,650 cases..”

And remember, this was in 2005–today the number is probably much higher.

Not any coverage of one of the most important causes of this phenomena, though. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have arisen so quickly largely because of the widespread use of antibiotics for veterinary uses, chiefly in the giant food factory farms. In these farms, animals are crowded together in disease-promoting conditions, so the only way to keep the animals from getting sick is to constantly feed them antibiotics. The bacteria that these animals are exposed to then become resistant to antibiotics, and through the process of horizontal genetic transfer, the germs that infect humans get the genes that they need to protect them against antibiotics. (See my previous post on this issue)

So, the AMA warned before against the use of the newer generation of antibiotics in animals, and is, along with 12 other health organizations, warning about this again, now that the pharmaceutical industry has asked the government for permission to use the very newest class of antibiotics on animals. These are our last-ditch antibiotics, and if bacteria become resistant to these, the number of fatal infections will increase, warns the AMA.

So the government is going to look out for the interests of its citizens and NOT approve the request by the pharma industry to make these last ditch antibiotics available to the cattle industry, right? Think again:

Will FDA put humans at risk with cow drug?

The Washington Post

The government is on track to approve a new antibiotic to treat a pneumonialike disease in cattle, despite warnings from health groups and a majority of the agency’s own expert advisers that the decision will be dangerous for people.

The drug, cefquinome, belongs to a class of potent antibiotics that are among medicine’s last defense against several serious human infections. No drug from that class has been approved in the United States for use in animals….

The American Medical Association and about 12 other health groups warned the Food and Drug Administration that giving cefquinome to animals probably would speed the emergence of microbes resistant to that important class of antibiotic, as has happened with other drugs.[emphasis added by EF] Those supermicrobes could then spread to people

Echoing those concerns, the FDA’s advisory board last fall voted to reject the request by Intervet of Millsboro, Del., to market the drug for cattle.

Yet by all indications, the FDA will approve cefquinome this spring. That outcome is all but required, officials said, by a recently implemented “guidance document” that codifies how to weigh threats to human health posed by proposed new animal drugs.

The wording of “Guidance for Industry 152″ was crafted within the FDA after a long struggle. In the end, the agency adopted language that, for drugs such as cefquinome, is more deferential to pharmaceutical companies than is recommended by the World Health Organization.

An article in Forbes (“Do Staph Bacteria Kill More People Than HIV? “) asks a very important question though:

If MRSA is such a scourge, though, why haven’t companies developing drugs that fight it turned out to be better investments?

Unfortunately, though, the authors don’t really ask if the way the government and big pharma have colluded to structure the market to maximize the profits of big pharma has anything to do with the lack of new antibiotics. We see many medicines that treat chronic conditions of rich middle aged men in their prime earning years (Lipitor and Viagra) but very few new antibiotics, which are used for a single treatment course and and have a less wealthy demographic. Coincidence? (Perhaps they should read Michael Perelman’s book Steal this Idea?)

From the New York Times, a story about the spread of MRSA in schools, where it has spread, quite frequently in locker rooms:

Staph Infections Reported at Schools Across the Country

Health and education officials have reported that staph infections, including the serious MRSA strain, have spread through schools nationwide in recent weeks.

MRSA is a strain of staph bacteria that does not respond to penicillin or related antibiotics, though it can be treated with other drugs. The infection can be spread by skin-to-skin contact or through sharing an item, like a towel or a piece of sports equipment, that has been used by an infected person, particularly one with an open wound.

And from Rueters, here’s an interesting story. It seems that skilfull practice of medicine can lessen the need for antibotics:

Two reports show “superbug” bacteria spread
Tue Oct 16, 2007 4:17pm EDT

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two drug-resistant “superbugs” are becoming more common across the United States including one that causes hard-to-treat ear infections in children, researchers reported on Tuesday.

Another, called methicillin-resistant staph aureus or MRSA, killed an estimated 19,000 Americans in 2005 and made 94,000 seriously ill, according to one report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Michael Pichichero and Dr. Janet Casey, both of the University of Rochester and Legacy Pediatrics, their practice in New York, found a new type of drug-resistant cases of Streptococcus pneumoniae in children with ear infections.

Five of those children had to be treated with an antibiotic approved only for adults because children’s drugs were not strong enough to kill it.

The pediatricians said doctors could help prevent the ear infection problem by performing an old-fashioned, low-tech procedure called an ear tap, which can be used to both diagnose and sometimes treat the infections.

The pediatricians said doctors could help prevent the ear infection problem by performing an old-fashioned, low-tech procedure called an ear tap, which can be used to both diagnose and sometimes treat the infections.

Doctors usually make a best guess and treat children’s ear infections with whatever antibiotic they believe to be most appropriate, but Pichichero said this may not be optimal.

His team found nine children infected with a new strain of S. pneumoniae. Four had been through more than one round of antibiotics and five had to be treated with levofloxacin — an antibiotic approved only for adults. The others were treated with an ear tap using novocaine.

“The child feels absolutely no pain,” Pichichero said in a telephone interview.


“An ear infection is actually a kind of abscess behind the ear drum. Draining it immediately relieves the pressure and pain. It immediately brings the fever down. Fifty percent of the time there is no need for antibiotics at all.”

The ear taps would allow doctors to identify precisely which strain of bacteria is infecting a child and choose the most appropriate antibiotic, Pichichero and Casey said.

And using antibiotics less often would help overcome the threat of antibiotic resistance and make the drugs more useful when they really are needed.
For the second study, Dr. Monina Klevens and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sampled reports of MRSA from all over the United States.

“Based on 8,987 observed cases of MRSA and 1,598 in-hospital deaths among patients with MRSA, we estimate that 94,360 invasive MRSA infections occurred in the United States in 2005; these infections were associated with death in 18,650 cases,” they wrote in their report.

MRSA infections can range from boils to more severe infections of the bloodstream, lungs and surgical sites. The researchers said 85 percent of all cases were associated with hospitals, nursing homes or other health care facilities.

The bottom line? Write, call, fax your representative and ask that the FDA not approve Cefquinome, a fourth-generation cephalosporin, for use in animals.

Oh, and last an article which includes a map of the staph outbreak in DC area schools, along with recommendations for avoiding staph. :

Created: Thursday, 18 Oct 2007, 2:51 PM EDT

Click here for map.

Staph bacteria, including MRSA, can cause skin infections that may look like a pimple or boil and can be red, swollen, painful, or have pus or other drainage. Staph infections are transmitted most frequently by direct skin-to-skin contact.

Practicing good hygiene is the best means of prevention of catching staph, cold, strep, and other contagious infections. Methods of good hygiene include:

1. Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

2. Keeping cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.

3. Avoiding contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.

4. Avoiding the sharing of personal equipment (i.e. chin straps, shin pads, shoulder pads).

5. Using a disinfectant to keep all personal equipment clean after every use.

6. Avoiding the sharing of personal items such as towels or razors.

7. Using a barrier (i.e. clothing or a towel) between your bare skin and shared equipment.

8. Wiping surfaces of equipment before and after use.

Parents should assess skin regularly for any lesions, and notify your health care provider for any suspicious wounds.

What you can do about antibiotic-resistant bacteria

3 thoughts on “What you can do about antibiotic-resistant bacteria

  1. tambutt says:



    *Antibiotics. I have been prescribed BACTRIM and also CLINDAMYCIN at different times.

    *HIBICLENS cleanser. This is an antiseptic/antimicrobial skin cleanser. It is a bright red liquid that comes in an 8 oz. teal colored plastic bottle. It should be found over the counter at your pharmacy. Use as a body scrub (best to avoid face & genitalia) daily for 2 weeks straight.

    *MUPIROCIN ointment. This is a prescription antibiotic ointment (comes in a small tube) to put on the skin. Put it on your MRSA breakouts as soon as you notice them coming and it should shrink them so that you don’t have to open them up and drain them. This will save you a lot of pain. Also, use a q-tip to apply a thin layer under your nose. Morning and night unless you shower or wash your face throughout the day, reapply. This will make an invisible barrier to help reduce the chance of staph entering your nose. Try your hardest to keep your fingers away from your nose at all times. Also, at night I used a nail brush and scrubbed under my finger nails with HIBICLENS then used a q-tip to apply a thin layer of MUPIROCIN under my finger nails since staph lives under your nails.

    *Wash your hands like crazy and keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse/pocket.

    *One ER doctor told me never to cover a breakout because it needs to breathe. That’s crazy; you do not want anyone else to come into contact with an active breakout. Use a band-aid/bandage. You will find that you may hear many different things from many different doctors. There are so many different strains and they are rapidly growing so not everyone is up to speed on what works and what should be done.

    *I cannot stress this enough… DO NOT SHARE RAZORS!!! I believe this is how I got MRSA, by sharing my boyfriend’s razor. If you are close to someone else that has MRSA, the two of you can keep giving it back and forth to each other. Also, you keep giving it back to yourself. I am no longer surrounded by any one else that has it, which is great, but to avoid giving it back to myself I keep a cup filled with rubbing alcohol in my bathroom and after every single use of my razor I soak it in the cup. I really feel that this is important.

    *As you are battling this, you must keep your house as sterile as possible. I like to use natural cleaners in my house but while I was dealing with this I didn’t want to mess around. I bought very strong bathroom spray with bleach in it and kept Clorox wipes in my house. Keep your bathroom clean. Also, change your sheets and towels more often than you normally would. Remember, if you are in the bathroom extracting a MRSA breakout, you pretty much have to tell yourself that it’s a bio-hazard area. No one else should be there unless you really need help. EVERYTHING needs to be cleaned once you are done. Any towels used must be kept separately and washed in very hot water and possibly bleach. Wipe down every area you (and what has come out of you) have touched. Remember that what comes out of you is toxic.

    GOOD LUCK!!!

  2. Todd says:

    Hi! Thanks so much for taking the time to write your suggestions. I’ve had 3 staph infections over the last year (2 on my face and 1 on my arm), and though the lab reports implies it is not a MRSA, no antibiotics seemed to have done very much. They went away on their own. I have no idea where they came from. The Dr. suggested it was from my razor since I got the first 2 on my face, but I don’t share it with anyone. No idea!
    I am for the most part practicing what you have suggested, but putting MUPIROCIN in the nostrils is a new one I have not heard, and will try that. I continually get sores in my nostrils that I assume is from the staph also, so this is a good thing to try.
    Thanks again for your report!

  3. cybergrip says:

    This infection does not have to be treated antibacterially.
    Showers are great, but they are not 100% effective especially with deeper cuts and abrasions.

    Texas Tech did the study and here is the press release. Prevention is easy. Treatment can be at any stage of the infection.

    www. alkavitahealth.com/Press.html

    It is a silicon compound that happens to kill the bacteria.

    Really interesting results, and there are no side effects, except maybe elation and relief at gettin rid of, or preventing the infection.

    Play and spray you could say.

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