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Federal government weighs in on antibiotic resistance

by Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | September 30, 2014
Infection Control
A dynamic problem

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths are caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria annually in the U.S. alone. In the latest effort to address this issue, the U.S. government has released a 33 page National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. The reasons for resistance are varied, and the document urges a five-sided approach.

Washington is calling for more judicious use of antibiotics, the integration of public health records, "point of need" testing to quickly determine if an illness is bacterial or viral, (so that correct medication is prescribed), the development of new antibiotics and alternatives to antibiotics, and a singular, global approach to responsibly managing antibiotics.

Prescribing antibiotics speculatively is becoming less and less acceptable, as careless prescriptions are often what lead to the mutations rendering them ineffective. The CDC has estimated that in the U.S., antibiotic resistance adds $20 billion in excess direct health care costs, with additional costs to society for lost productivity as high as $35 billion a year.

These issues are not unique to humans, either. Animals are often administered antibiotics with the same negligence, and resistant strains can develop among livestock before infecting humans.

The CDC says mismanagement of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance. Up to 50 percent of all the antibiotics prescribed for people are not needed or are not prescribed appropriately. In a world with few alternatives, modern practices like surgery, transplants, and chemotherapy may become less viable due to risk of infection.

Looking within for answers

A company called Ruthigen has been developing a non-antibiotic, anti-infection drug for over a decade. They say the drug, which could be used for invasive procedures like abdominal surgery, works differently than antibiotics, and would not promote the evolution of resistant bacterial strains. It is called RUT58-60 and they're hoping to get FDA approval in 2018.

Hoji Alimi, the CEO of Ruthigen, told DOTmed News that the active ingredient in RUT58-60 is hypochlorous acid (HOCI), and it's something living organisms have been producing organically for millions of years. "It has been part of our immune system since early evolution," said Alimi, "The reason we have a cold and then we heal is because our bodies are capable of producing hypochlorous acid."

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