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Resistance training for bugs: Antimicrobial resistance, redux

Posted Mar 09 2010 10:00pm

Are we really training an army of superbugs? Yep. No doubt about it. Ever since we started killing microscopic organisms with drugs we call antimicrobials (of which antibiotics are the most famous subset), these “bugs” have been looking for ways to survive the wrath of chemicals that would see them dead.

Mutation has been their MO, an approach that’s worked out better and faster than we ever expected when we first designed our drugs. Which is why we now find ourselves scrambling to beat the bugs by devising ever-trickier ways to kill them. The big difference between now and then is that in today’s germ warfare we harbor a deep respect for the organisms and the certain knowledge they’ll eventually best our drugs. That is, until we create new ones...and on and on...until we’re losing more often than we’re winning.

This doomsday scenario brought to you by concerned medical providers everywhere.

Which is why we urge you to give every last pill when we prescribe a course of antibiotics for your pets. Which is why we might even decline to offer you antibiotics for that kennel cough, skin infection or UTI until we have a firm handle on what kind of organism is wreaking havoc––if at all.

If the above description wasn’t enough, past posts like this and this and  this should help you on your quest to learn more about the do’s and don’ts of antimicrobial resistance. They should at least inform you of my passion for the subject, newly revitalized after attending last week’s lecture on antimicrobial resistance in skin infections.

Talk about being passionate! Dr. Alison Flynn-Lurie is a Miami veterinary dermatologist who until very recently served on the faculty of the University of Florida. After her husband spent months in the hospital with a MRSA infection, she found she’d suddenly acquired a fierce objection to antimicrobial misuse. Hence her pet subject and the fundamental assertion that every single skin infection that can be cultured should be cultured––and here's the catch––before any antibiotic therapy is initiated.

In case you’re wondering, this is the kind of hard sell unlikely to earn us small animal veterinary practitioners any friends. As if the culture and sensitivity isn’t expensive enough, asking the owner of an animal to wait three or four days before offering a medical solution any more advanced than daily medicated baths is just the kind of thing to frustrate even the most understanding of owners.

But here’s my retort, in the event I ever meet much friction: What’s three days and fifty bucks when the alternative might well include death by drug-resistant bugs? It becomes especially problematic when that death isn't your pets...it's yours. 

 

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