Bacteria Becoming Increasingly Resistant To Antibiotics, But New Vaccines Are On The Horizon

LOS ANGELES (January 11, 1998) -- Streptococcus pneumoniae, bacteria that can cause life-threatening infections in adults and especially children, are rapidly becoming resistant to penicillin and cephalosporins such as ceftriaxone, the most widely used antibiotics currently available to treat bacterial infections, according to Moshe Arditi, M.D., author of an article in the November issue of Pediatrics and director of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Arditi said that while the bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics at "an astonishing rate," the penicillin-resistant strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococci, obtained from children with meningitis do not appear to be more virulent, or severe, than those that are susceptible to penicillin -- at least for now.

The Pediatrics article describes a three-year study of children suffering from pneumococcal meningitis. Researchers reviewed the charts of 180 children who were admitted to eight different children's hospitals between September 1, 1993 and August 31, 1996. Because one child had two episodes of infection, 181 episodes were documented in the findings. Dr. Arditi said the study looked at the clinical presentation, hospital course and outcome, taking into consideration the antibiotic resistance patterns of the pneumococci causing the infection. Researchers then determined whether there was a difference in outcome if the infecting organism was an antibiotic-resistant strain of pneumococcus.

"If you look at each year of the three-year study and look at the percentages, you see a dramatic increase in antibiotic resistance between the second year, for example, and the third year," said Dr. Arditi. "In the second year, the penicillin non-susceptible rate (intermediate susceptible and resistant organisms) was 13 percent. In the third year of the study, it jumped to 27 percent. For ceftriaxone, resistance in the first

Contact: Sandra Van
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

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