Saturday, January 15, 2011

Antiobiotic resistance misconception

Doctors adjust the IV for a patient with MDR-TB at a government hospital in Maseru, Lesotho. From

I think one of the most common misconceptions about antibiotic resistance is that because we have a number of antibiotics effective against most diseases then antibiotic resistance will only become a big problem when bacteria have become resistant to everything.

This is wrong because in most cases the drugs we have available range from cheap with few side effects to expensive with serious side effects. Because of this we often have big problems even before the bacteria are technically resistant to 'everything'.

So for Tuberculosis, for example, it goes something like this:

Tuberculosis (TB)
  • Cost of drug treatment: $10-$20
  • Course of treatment: 6 months
  • Side effects of treatment: generally minor but may include vomiting, nausea and loss of appetite.
Multi-drug-resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB)
  • Cost of drug treatment: up to $5,000 - $20,000
  • Course of treatment: 2 years
  • Side effects of treatment: side-effects are more serious and include hepatitis, depression and hallucinations.
Extensively drug-resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB)
  • Cost of drug treatment: cases have been dealt with individually - some have cost $500,000
  • Course of treatment: as long as it takes, many patients die
  • Side effects of treatment: severe, in South Africa many patients discontinued treatment stating that they would rather die.

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