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Antibiotic Resistance in Healthy Adults

Misuse of Antibiotics Leads to Increased Amounts of Resistant 'Super' Bugs

Methicillin-Resistant Infections

Cohen's study of 1,637 staph infections showed that 21% were resistant to the antibiotic methicillin. Of 176 resistant bacteria studied, 59% were acquired in the community and 42% were hospital-acquired.

About one in five patients with community-acquired resistant infections did not have diabetes or use intravenous drugs, which heightens risk for antibiotic-resistant infections.

"In the next few years, the routine antibiotics used to treat staph infection in healthy folks likely will not work anymore," says Cohen. "We may need to use more expensive drugs, or those with more side effects."

More Methicillin Resistance

In Houston's hospitals, 60 children were treated for community-acquired staph infections. Of those, 45% turned out to have methicillin-resistant infections.

Another not-yet-completed study shows that, in upcoming years, nearly 70% of staph infections will be resistant to methicillin, says Heresi. "It seems as though the bacteria are more virulent," she says.

One child developed a serious hip infection and, as a result, developed a blood clot in the leg that could have been fatal.

Penicillin, Erythromycin, Cotrimoxazole Resistance

One group of researchers tested three antibiotics -- penicillin, erythromycin, and cotrimoxazole -- for resistance to S. pneumoniae, a bacterium that causes pneumonia, ear infections, and sinusitis.

In 1992, researchers detected virtually no resistance to all three antibiotics. But in 2001, more than one in five (21%) infections were antibiotic-resistant.

Other studies have shown that one in four children had resistance to all three antibiotics.

Resistance to amoxicillin has remained relatively stable at about 9%. However, resistance to some of the newer antibiotics -- like erythromycin -- is higher, about 28% and increasing, reports researcher Robertino M. Mera, a professor at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.

Experts' advice:

  • Not every infection requires antibiotics. Many infections are viral and antibiotics will do nothing to eradicate them.
  • When an antibiotic is prescribed, patients should finish all the medication -- even if they feel better before they have taken all the pills.

The problem of antibiotic resistance has become serious, they say. It's no longer just a concern for the elderly or hospitalized people.

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