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Health Wrap: Bad Week For Antibiotics

Perhaps the war on terror needs the medical equivalent of an equally well-funded war on bugs. In fact, Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said earlier this month that "a federal initiative as ambitious as the Manhattan Project is needed to protect the nation from infectious diseases."

Washington (UPI) June 24, 2005
The wonder drugs of the last century are running into more and more resistance, and not just from those wily superbugs. Studies this week cast doubt on the usefulness of antibiotics against two common foes, pink eye and respiratory ailments.

"Most children presenting with acute conjunctivitis in primary care will get better by themselves and do not need treatment with an antibiotic," said an article in The Lancet, the British medical journal.

The study, by Oxford University researchers, noted that one in eight British schoolchildren gets pink eye each year, but that unless it is severe, antibiotics aren't needed.

"The health economic argument against antibiotic prescription for acute conjunctivitis is compelling," the authors said. "The cost of 1 million general practice consultations and antibiotic prescriptions every year is substantial."

You can save more co-pay money when you start hacking away from bronchitis this winter -- another study found antibiotics don't speed recovery from uncomplicated infections of the lower respiratory tract.

The survey of 500 patients found that whether their doctor gave them antibiotics or not, they all suffered through the nasty cough for an average 12 more days after the office visit.

Those prescriptions account for 55 percent of unneeded prescriptions in the United States, according to the study's lead researcher, Dr. Paul Little of England's University of Southampton. At $50 to $100 per therapy regimen, that's more than $700 million down the esophagus.

Yet, to paraphrase the tired joke about cops: Where is an antibiotic when you need one?

The National Foundation for Infectious Disease holds its annual session on antimicrobial resistance next week in Bethesda, Md., at a time when pharmaceutical companies are scrambling to find new drugs to replace ones that have faltered.

Decades of over-reliance on antibiotics have helped create resistant strains that are wreaking havoc with public health around the globe. The high prevalence of a staph infection called MRSA in British hospitals even became an election issue, with Tony Blair promising to slash rates.

Perhaps the war on terror needs the medical equivalent of an equally well-funded war on bugs. In fact, Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said earlier this month that "a federal initiative as ambitious as the Manhattan Project is needed to protect the nation from infectious diseases."

One promising note: The conference will hear about a new class of antibiotics being developed by Ceragenix Pharmaceuticals that could lead to therapies for antibiotic-resistant germs.

As a reminder that even the worst diseases can be subdued, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative this week paid tribute to Rotary International's commitment to ending polio worldwide.

Since 1985 individual Rotary members have raised $600 million and helped immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries.

"The combined strengths of civil society, the private sector, governments and international agencies have made enormous progress in what once seemed an impossible task," Dr. Lee Jong-wook, director general of the World Health Organization, told Rotarians celebrating their 100th anniversary in Chicago.

Yet even that triumph is starting to look shaky: Polio has begun staging a resurgence. Cornered in six countries three years ago, it is now back in force in a total of 19. The main reason: Three Nigerian provinces blocked vaccinations for as long as a year, claiming a Western plot against Islam. They relented, but the damage was done.

A final vaccine note: A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee has scheduled a vote next Wednesday on whether to add a pertussis-whooping-cough shot to the vaccination schedule for adolescents. The agency usually follows the advice of its committees.

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AIDS Fight Will Cost 22 Billion Dollars By 2008, UN Says
Geneva (AFP) Jun 22, 2005
Around 22 billion dollars (18 billion euros) a year will be needed by 2008 to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries, the United Nations said Wednesday.







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