Dazzling Knowledge

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Meanwhile, in Superbug News...

A Yahoo! News article on the rise of new forms of resistant strep infections.

A vaccine that has dramatically curbed pneumonia and other serious
illnesses in children is having an unfortunate effect: promoting new superbugs
that cause ear infections.
Prevnar prevents seven strains responsible for most cases of pneumonia,
meningitis and deadly bloodstream infections. But dozens more strep strains
exist, and some have flourished and become impervious to antibiotics since the
vaccine combats the more common strains.
But it is a unique vaccine because it covers only seven of the 90-odd
strains of the germ. By contrast, measles is caused by one type of virus.
Booster shots are needed for chickenpox, mumps and measles because immunity
wanes, not because the germ changed.
Prevnar, however, is losing its punch because strains not covered by the
vaccine are filling the biological niche that the vaccine strains used to
occupy, and they are causing disease.
One strain in particular, called 19A, is big trouble. A new subtype of it
caused ear infections in the nine Rochester children, ages 6 months to 18
months, that were resistant to all pediatric medications, said Dr. Michael
Pichichero, a microbiologist at the University of Rochester Medical
The children had been unsuccessfully treated with two or more antibiotics,
including high-dose amoxicillin and multiple shots of another drug. Many needed
surgery to place ear tubes to drain the infection, and some recovered only after
treatment with a newer, powerful antibiotic whose safety in children has not
been established.

I have been following this issue, of course. We expected these new variants to arise eventually. Unfortunately, while we hoped to get 10 to 20 years of effectiveness from these vaccines, it's closer to 10 to 20 months. Scientifically, it's interesting. From a humanist standpoint, it's scary.

via Isegoria.


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