Monday, April 6, 2015

Antibiotic resistance increasing

More life-threatening bacteria are developing resistance to a broad range of antibiotics, says a new report from Health Canada.

But Canada remains behind the times in tackling the source of resistance, both in agriculture and medicine, according to Globe and Mail article by neuroscientist Jovans Drinjakovic.

Europe and the United States are both moving aggressively to change regulations and invest money to tackle the issue.

The European Union is spending $890 million on its Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance.
In January, U.S. President Barack Obama announced $1.2 billion to fight antibiotic resistance.

And the U.S. relaxed its antibiotic-registration regulations and doubled its market protection to 10 years, resulting in five new approvals in the last 12 months, which matches the number of approvals for the previous 10 years.

Companies are reluctant to invest because it takes about $1 billion and only one in five makes it. Even then, about 40 per cent are withdrawn when toxic side effects show up.

Drinjakovic focuses her report on what’s happening in Canadian hospitals, making it clear that there are still a lot of gaps and room for improvements.

Canadian government officials were able to provide statistics on the volume of antibiotics being used in hospitals and prescribed by doctors.

She provides no similar figures for Canadian agriculture, probably because the government isn’t collecting them or forcing drug companies to provide their sales data. Why not is a mystery to me, particularly in light of the fiasco when the U.S. and Canadian governments banned the use of diethylstilbestrol (DES) as a cattle growth promotant in the 1970s, only to find widespread violation that was tracked down by demanding company sales records.

What is clear is that the incidence of antibiotic-resistant life-threatening bacteria is increasing and that people are dying.

The death toll in Europe and the U.S. is estimated to be 50,000 people a year and rising.

Health Canada’s new report says resistant bacteria have already cost the Canadian health system $1 billion and that there has been a 14-fold increase in the use of last-line antibiotics since 2002. One in 23 hospital patients is now being infected with one of the superbugs called MRSA.

In the face of these concerns, drug companies said last year that they will remove labeling that allows antibiotics to be used as growth promotants for livestock and poultry.

However, critics note that nothing is likely to change because feed mills, farmers and veterinarians will still be able to use the same antibiotics for disease prevention.

In Europe, farm use of antibiotics is restricted to treating veterinarian-confirmed infections and diseases.