Drug resistant infections are on the rise


by Jay Crandall


Posted on January 15, 2013 at 1:24 PM

PHOENIX -- Everyone's attention is focused on the flu right now, but recently an infection showed up for the first time in North America, and it is resistant to current drugs. It's just one of the diseases that beat our best medicine.

In films like "Contagion" and "Outbreak," deadly diseases spread around the world like wildfire, with no cure in sight.

And while that kind of disaster, so far, has been contained the movies, Dr. John Po, an infectious disease expert at Banner Estrella Hospital, said when it comes to some bacterial infections, it's not entirely science fiction.

“We are already seeing that, where people actually end up getting a pan resistant bacteria,” Po said.

Po said pan resistant bacteria, resistant to all known medications, are rare, but bacteria resistant to many drugs is a growing problem.

"What we are beginning to see is more and more people having urinary tract infections resorting to intravenous antibiotics,“ he said.

Both urinary tract and lung infections that are resistant to first-line antibiotics are on the rise in the Valley, and a new report says nine cases of gonorrhea, immune to all known oral antibiotics, have been detected in North America.

And while it has not been a problem in the United States, a more frightening trend is emerging in Eastern Europe. Drug-resistant tuberculosis is a crisis that has been looming for many years, according to Po.

“This is something that has been brewing for literally decades now,“ he said.

Po said because the treatment takes a strict regimen of antibiotics and is expensive, many people do not follow through and every time they stop, the bacteria re-trenches.

“Because you don't have the full course of antibiotics you are now perpetuating this issue of incomplete treatment of an illness where it is only going to serve to breed more resistance,” Po said.

That same thing happens every time you use leftover antibiotics, use them to treat something they are not prescribed for or don't take the full dose. Po said you need to be careful.

“The entire course needs to be taken in order to fully eliminate the offending agent,“ he said.

Every time some bacteria survive, it can build up resistance and Po said if we don't slow that down, science fiction moves a lot closer to reality.

“We may soon have a super bug that is resistant to all our medications,“ Po said.

Locally, Po said the drug-resistant urinary tract infection and lung infections are both causing concern. But, he said we have actually seen a slight decrease in drug-resistant staph infections.