Friday, January 1, 2010

How to fight antibiotic resistant staph

Twenty-five years ago, Norwegians were also losing their lives to this bacteria [Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus areus (MRSA)]. But Norway's public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics. ...

"We don't throw antibiotics at every person with a fever. We tell them to hang on, wait and see, and we give them a Tylenol to feel better," says [Dr. John Birger] Haug. ...

In Norway, MRSA has accounted for less than 1 percent of staph infections for years. That compares to 80 percent in Japan, the world leader in MRSA; 44 percent in Israel; and 38 percent in Greece. ...

But can Norway's program really work elsewhere? ...

[English doctor Lynne Liebowitz] turned Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn into a petri dish, asking doctors to almost completely stop using two antibiotics known for provoking MRSA infections.

One month later, the results were in: MRSA rates were tumbling. And they've continued to plummet. Five years ago, the hospital had 47 MRSA bloodstream infections. This year they've had one. ...

So far she has replicated her experiment at four other hospitals, all with the same dramatic results.
--Martha Mendoza and Margie Mason, Associated Press, on not taking antibiotics for the sniffles

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