Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Drug-resistant infections have become much worse over the past 15 years: No program to deal with it.

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I suppose the idea is that the weak will die and if you survive, good for you. That seems to be the only plan. David Epstein reports in ProPublica:

You have the flu. You also have an important deadline coming up, and the slave-driving editor at the non-profit investigative newsroom where you work is breathing down your butterfly collar. You have to get it together, or risk your editor trying to write much more incoherent things into your story to get it done in time. To make the deadline, you pop some penicillin … Ok, joke’s on you, because the flu is a virus, not a bacterial infection, and you just took an antibiotic. (Don’t do that.) But let’s say you had an infection, so you take an antibiotic to get back to work. While you’re convalescing, evolution is happening. A few of the microbes the antibiotic are attacking happen to have some gene mutation that allows them to survive the attack. The surviving enemy microbes spawn a new population, all of which have the gene mutation for laughing in the face of your puny antibiotic. Now multiply that scenario by millions of people taking antibiotics when they probably don’t really need them, and you begin to understand how we’ve created “superbug” infections via the overuse of antibiotics. A new Reuters investigation shows that 15 years after drug-resistant infections were declared a “grave threat,” the situation is far worse, and the country has no system in place to track the tens of thousands of deaths that occur each year. (Editors, however, manage to track exactly how long I, I mean you, procrastinate.) Your five Ws:

What is the death toll?

Great question. Wish someone had an answer. While every state tracks AIDS-related deaths, Reuters reports that only about half track deaths related to antibiotic-resistant infections, and those that do generally track only a few different types of infections. In a survey, the tracking states reported about 3,300 deaths from resistant infections between 2003 and 2014. Meanwhile, Reuters found a slightly higher number recorded on death certificates during that period: 180,000. So close! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 23,000 people die each year from 17 of the most common antibiotic-resistant infections, but, Reuters says, that number is “mostly guesswork.” Ya know, give or take a few tens-of-thousands of deaths. I think this is one of those situations for the ironic use of the phrase, “close enough for government work.”

What else?

The words that CDC officials used with Reuters to describe the agency’s death toll estimate are truly confidence inspiring: “jerry rig,” “ballpark figure,” “a searchlight in the dark attempt;” and, my personal favorite because I love 19th Century art, from Michael Craig, the CDC’s senior adviser for antibiotic resistance coordination and strategy, “an impressionist painting rather than something that is much more technical.” Excuse you, Mike, do you know how much technical skill it took to create Waterloo Bridge, Effect of Fog? … Art before science, I bet Mr. Craig was a star pupil in Miss Jean Brodie’s class.

Why?

… are drug-resistant infections often left off of death certificates? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 2:31 pm

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