Could patients fighting off powerful infections soon be left without a cure? That is the strong message being sent by associate director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Arjun Srinivasan. In an interview with PBS’s Frontline the doctor warns that “for a long time, there have been newspaper stories and covers of magazines that talked about ‘The end of antibiotics, question mark?’ Well, now I would say you can change the title to ‘The end of antibiotics, period.'”
Dr. Srinivasan continues, “We’re in the post-antibiotic era. There are patients for whom we have no therapy, and we are literally in a position of having a patient in a bed who has an infection, something that five years ago even we could have treated, but now we can’t.”
The best example of a dangerous infection is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which recently struck three players of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the past MRSA was limited mostly to health-care facilities where it grew in strength by fending off continuous rounds of antibiotics. Each generation of the MRSA strain has grown stronger than the last.
Dr. Srinivasan says: “In hospitals, when you see MRSA infections, you oftentimes see that in patients who have a catheter in their blood, and that creates an opportunity for MRSA to get into their bloodstream… In the community, it was causing a very different type of infection. It was causing a lot of very, very serious and painful infections of the skin, which was completely different from what we would see in health care.”
Newer antibiotics simply are not working so the current solution is for doctors to look back at older options. For example, doctors are using colistin to fight off infections, a drug that Dr. Srinivasan notes is “very toxic. We don’t like to use it. It damages the kidneys. But we’re forced to use it in a lot of instances.”
If you are worried or curious about the state of antibiotics the entire Frontline report titled Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria, can be viewed here.
Are you concerned about the future of powerful antibiotic-fighting bacteria and other diseases?