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6 Bad 'Bugs' Prompt Call for New Drugs

New Antibiotics Needed to Counter Drug-Resistant Infections, Doctors Say
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 1, 2006 -- Doctors specializing in infectious diseases are calling for the creation of new antibiotics to target infections caused by six bad "bugs."

The "bugs" are the following:

  • MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a type of "staph" bacteria that resist many antibiotics.
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Klebsiella bacteria species, which are major causes of infections in the urinary tract, digestive system, and wounds.
  • Acinetobacter baumannii, a growing cause of hospital-acquired pneumonia.
  • Aspergillus fungus species, which can cause serious infections in people with weakened immune systems.
  • Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faceium, a source of blood, heart and abdominal infections with high rates of drug resistance.
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterial infection that can be life-threatening in people with weakened immune systems.

The list appears in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

'Definite Need' for New Drugs

George Talbot, MD, an infectious disease expert who worked on the study, spoke about the list during a media teleconference.

Talbot says he and his colleagues listed bugs that could affect large numbers of people and be particularly deadly in some groups. They also looked for infections that were increasingly becoming resistant to current antibiotics, and those with few or no new antibiotics in development.

"For all of these bugs, there is a definite, and in some cases desperate need for new antibiotics," Talbot says.

He mentions MRSAMRSA as an infection that's widely discussed. MRSA are a type of staph bacteria that resist many antibiotics.

"For MRSA, there are drugs that are available, but what's missing are good drugs that can be given by mouth," Talbot says.

Football Player's Story

Brandon Noble, a defensive tackle with the Washington Redskins, also spoke in the teleconference. Noble described having been diagnosed with MRSA infection twice -- once in each knee -- in 2005.

Noble says that after his first surgery to clean out the infection, he gave himself antibiotics at home through a deep intravenous catheter in his arm three times daily for 1.5 hours. "That's a good chunk of your day that's spent sitting in a chair with a tube attached to you," Noble says.

Noble also says he was told not to lift anything heavier than 5 pounds while the tube was in. "Obviously, I kind of side-stepped that one," he says, noting that his third child, born during his second bout with MRSA, weighed 8 pounds at birth.

Sidelined by MRSA

"The treatment is almost as difficult as the infection," Noble says.

"Being a football player, I have to be able to work out. I have to be able to be active and have energy," Noble says. "The six weeks of treatment during this off-season pretty much knocked me out of football, in my opinion. It caused me to go into camp out of shape, not ready. I rehurt my knee. I was placed on injured-reserve, again.

Like all staph bacteria, MRSA can be spread from one person to another through casual contact or through contaminated objects. It used to be seen mainly in hospitals but has been rising in communities, Talbot says.

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