Antibiotic Resistance

It’s kind of Zen, don’t you think? The response to being overpowered is… stop fighting!

OSLO, Norway — Aker University Hospital is a dingy place to heal. The floors are streaked and scratched. A light layer of dust coats the blood pressure monitors. A faint stench of urine and bleach wafts from a pile of soiled bedsheets dropped in a corner.

Look closer, however, at a microscopic level, and this place is pristine. There is no sign of a dangerous and contagious staph infection that killed tens of thousands of patients in the most sophisticated hospitals of Europe, North America and Asia last year, soaring virtually unchecked.

The reason: Norwegians stopped taking so many drugs.

Twenty-five years ago, Norwegians were also losing their lives to this bacteria. But Norway’s public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics.

Now a spate of new studies from around the world prove that Norway’s model can be replicated with extraordinary success, and public health experts are saying these deaths — 19,000 in the U.S. each year alone, more than from AIDS — are unnecessary.

“It’s a very sad situation that in some places so many are dying from this, because we have shown here in Norway that Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA] can be controlled, and with not too much effort,” said Jan Hendrik-Binder, Oslo’s MRSA medical advisor. “But you have to take it seriously, you have to give it attention and you must not give up.”

The World Health Organization says antibiotic resistance is one of the leading public health threats on the planet. A six-month investigation by The Associated Press found overuse and misuse of medicines has led to mutations in once curable diseases like tuberculosis and malaria, making them harder and in some cases impossible to treat.

6 Responses to Antibiotic Resistance

  1. jawbone February 28, 2010 at 3:35 pm #

    Wow. Just wow. This strikes me as really important and we should do the same thing here.

    (But what about the chickens? Cows? Opponents would say….)

  2. dandy February 28, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    Hey, just don’t fuck with my Zanex!

  3. Catherine D. February 28, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

    I’m all for reducing the use of antibiotics, but a little soap and water will reduce the dust and eau d’ pissoir …

  4. koshem bos February 28, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    I doubt that the part about the dust has a base in reality. The Scandinavians are trail blazers in quite a few medical areas (e.g. back surgery). It turns out that Staph infections are yet another break through.

  5. jawbone February 28, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    Can’t recall where, but I came across this NYTimes article on the increasing number of antibiotic resistant bacteria — and some of them have no antibotics left apparently.

    …Acinetobacter baumannii.

    The germ is one of a category of bacteria that by some estimates are already killing tens of thousands of hospital patients each year. While the organisms do not receive as much attention as the one known as MRSA — for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — some infectious-disease specialists say they could emerge as a bigger threat.

    That is because there are several drugs, including some approved in the last few years, that can treat MRSA. But for a combination of business reasons and scientific challenges, the pharmaceuticals industry is pursuing very few drugs for Acinetobacter and other organisms of its type, known as Gram-negative bacteria. Meanwhile, the germs are evolving and becoming ever more immune to existing antibiotics.

    “In many respects it’s far worse than MRSA,” said Dr. Louis B. Rice, an infectious-disease specialist at the Louis Stokes Cleveland V.A. Medical Center and at Case Western Reserve University. “There are strains out there, and they are becoming more and more common, that are resistant to virtually every antibiotic we have.”

  6. Sroach March 12, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    As for cows and chickens the Norwegians have been leaders (after Sweden) on reducing the antibiotics on the farm as well. Comprehensive actions for all users – in hospitals, at the doctors office, and on farm is needed.

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