The overuse of antibiotics in our society has caused a huge problem for us. Germs are figuring out a way to mutate and build up resistance to our antibiotics. Children with simple minor scrapes and cuts are no longer able to heal their bodies naturally against staph infections. Doctors are seeing more and more cases of perfectly healthy children and adults alike being rushed into the hospitals from life threatening methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections. Penicillin antibiotics once prescribed by doctors to cure staph infections are increasingly not working on their patients. The only drug to seem to work against MRSA is Vancomycin, the medical world’s last resort solution.
What will happen when the germs figure a way out to resistant Vancomycin? Will we be in danger?
Dr. Robert Daum, head of infectious diseases at the University of Chicago Children’s Hospital and Dr. William Schaffner, head of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville are in agreement that we are indeed in danger. In an interview with CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl, both doctors voiced their concern about the overuse of antibiotics and the lack of continuing funding to develop new drugs. Doctors are acquiescing to demands of parents to subscribe antibiotics for their child’s ailments against their better judgment. Antibiotics should only be used sparingly and only to fight off bacterial infections. Yet, doctors continue to prescribe antibiotics for viral infections like the common respiratory infection. It is easier to prescribe an antibiotic than to say no to a patient.
The U.S. Government, concerned about the antibiotic crisis, has launched an educational campaign towards parents in the hopes to stop antibiotic abuse and protect the public from a superbug epidemic. But this is not enough. Doctors need to stop prescribing antibiotics when they are not necessary. We also need pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics. The problem is most pharmaceutical companies have greatly diminished their funding for antibiotic research and development or completely stopped funding altogether.
The average cost to develop a new antibiotic and get it approved by the FDA is about $1 billion dollars. Antibiotics only are needed for a two week basis. They are not profit money makers for stakeholders of pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical companies would much rather develop a drug that consumers need to take continuously such as Viagra. These are more profitable investments for pharmaceutical companies.
Yet, if Vancomycin fails to fight off MRSA what will we have left to cure ourselves from staph infections? Vancomycin is our last resort antibiotic. There are no other solutions. As MRSA cases continue to climb hopefully pharmaceutical companies will once again invest money into developing stronger antibiotics. Otherwise our situation could be dire.