World health officials have warned for years that they are running out of medications to prevent and treat antibiotic-resistant infections.
Last year, the WHO even declared that reducing the amount of antibiotics prescribed and the development of new antibiotics are global priorities.
It’s why there is now cautious optimism about a new combination of antibiotics that are showing promise in the labs at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Each antibiotic that researchers tested blocks a different kind of drug-destroying enzyme secreted by bacteria. When combined, the two antibiotics run interference for each other to fight infections.
The therapy could soon treat one of the most pervasive and deadly bacterial infections plaguing hospitals today: carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, or CRE. “The superbug causes approximately one-third of health care-associated infections in the United States and kills nearly half its victims, according to a study just released in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy,” CWRU stated in a press release.
“Infectious diseases will continually emerge because we live on a planet that has been utterly dominated by microbes for billions of years,” said one infectious disease expert.
The new combination antibiotic drug regimen proved effective against 81 percent of CRE specimens tested in a second study.
The researchers’ findings were quickly put to the test outside of the lab. The new regimen was given to two patients who had no other treatment options: a young kidney transplant patient at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and an elderly woman who had just received a new hip at University Hospitals. Both had infections that verged on fatal, according to CWRU — yet they survived because of the cutting-edge treatment.
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Dozens of other people, meanwhile, have died of a drug-resistant fungal infection that can infiltrate the bloodstream. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new recommendations in February for the prevention of Candida auris, including housing patients in single rooms whenever possible.
“Candida auris is an emerging fungus that presents a serious global health threat,” the CDC notes on its website. “Some strains of Candida auris are resistant to all three major classes of antifungal drugs. This type of multidrug resistance has not been seen before in other species of Candida.”
This fungus can persist on surfaces in health care environments and spread between patients in health care facilities, unlike most other Candida species.
Cases in the U.S. are concentrated particularly in the Northeast and in the state of Illinois. At least 28 of the 35 documented U.S. cases were in New York State, the CDC reported. This is an issue we will only continue to hear about, said Amesh Adalja, an affiliated scholar with Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“Infectious diseases will continually emerge because we live on a planet that has been utterly dominated by microbes for billions of years,” Adalja told LifeZette. “This fact underscores the need for continual vigilance against microbial threats.”