Outside editorial: An antibiotic wake-up call

The following editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Friday:

On the growing roster of antibiotic-resistant diseases, gonorrhea is the one that has most recently captured the attention of public health officials. Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned last week that 1.7 percent of certain types of gonorrhea infections show little response to treatment, even with cephalosporins, the last line of antibiotic defense.

That might not sound like a lot, but with 600,000 Americans diagnosed annually, resistant cases number about 10,000 a year, and that number has been rising fast. Resistant gonorrhea is 17 times more common than it was just six years ago.

In January the U.S. Food and Drug Administration restricted the routine use of cephalosporins in livestock to preserve the drugs’ usefulness against diseases that plague people. Agricultural use isn’t necessarily related to resistant gonorrhea, a “wily” disease, as the CDC researchers put it, with a history of quickly outwitting available antibiotics. But the growing difficulty in curing one type of gonorrhea serves as a reminder that this nation must move far more aggressively to limit antibiotic use to the actual treatment of disease rather than to fatten livestock and prevent infections from sweeping through crowded animal pens.

At this point, no matter what happens with cephalosporins, resistant gonorrhea is on its way to winning out over available antibiotics, making it one of many worrisome bacterial strains, such as total-drug-resistant tuberculosis and MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Bills were introduced last year in both the House and Senate to encourage more pharmaceutical company research on antibiotics. They would extend patent protection for new antibiotics by five years and streamline FDA approval.

Such changes would be welcome, but many experts feel they don’t go far enough to encourage participation by large pharmaceutical companies. Congress should consider additional remedies, such as extending the FDA’s Orphan Drug program — which provides grants and other financial incentives for research on medications to treat rare diseases — to include antibiotics and redirecting National Institutes of Health funding from lower-priority projects to academic research. A multipronged effort by industry, universities and government, much like the effort that made AIDS a treatable disease, is needed to combat this looming health threat.


Mon, 01/23/2017 - 08:35

Letter: Moving the homeless ‘down the sidewalk’ doesn’t make the problem go away

Homeless people are people. There was a recent study that most Americans couldn’t afford to pay an unexpected $200 bill. Our food bank provides services to mostly employed people who are barely making it paycheck to paycheck. One mistake, one crisis, one choice, one death in a family can make many in society already struggling homeless.

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Mon, 01/23/2017 - 08:33

My Turn: The free ride is over

I moved to Alaska very shortly after the personal state income tax was abolished and deep inside I knew I’d be here when the time to re-instate it came around.

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Letter: Let the homeless stay

As a lifelong Juneau resident I, too, have been concerned about the rise in high profile homelessness in downtown. When I was growing up, it was very rare to see people sleeping out in doorways and on sidewalks — but I think this should elicit empathy and compassion on our part as citizens rather than a knee-jerk initiative to drive a group of people out of downtown.

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