Kamis, 08 April 2010

Antibiotic-resistant Gram-Negative Bacteria

You’ve probably never even heard of Acinetobacter baumannii or Enterobacter aerogenes. But these and other little-known gram-negative bacteria are killing tens of thousands of hospitalized patients every year, according to some estimates.

Gram-negative bacteria (so-called because of the way they are stained during the Gram staining protocol) have a cell wall structure that makes them more difficult to kill with antibiotics in the first place. But some strains of these bacteria are now resistant to every modern antibiotic we have.

In an ironic twist, two antibiotics (colistin and polymyxin B) that are somewhat effective against these resistant bacteria are still effective only because they were essentially abandoned decades ago, when it was learned that they can cause nerve and kidney damage. Now it’s become an unpleasant trade-off at times; risk death from the bacteria, or risk possible nerve and kidney damage from the antibiotics.

New antibiotics are needed, but so far there do not appear to be any “magic bullet”-type antibiotics on the horizon. This is a battle we’re slowly losing.

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