Antibiotic resistance can cost cancer patients their lives, research shows

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Christian LaVallee prepares solutions for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests at the Health Protection Agency in north London March 9, 2011. For decades scientists have managed to develop new medicines to stay at least one step ahead of the ever-mutating enemy, bacteria. Now, though, we may be running out of road. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA, alone is estimated to kill around 19,000 people every year in the United States -- far more than HIV and AIDS -- and a similar number in Europe, and other drug-resistant superbugs are spreading. Picture taken March 9, 2011. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

A team of scientists across American institutions, studying the growing antibiotic resistance among post surgery infection-causing bacteria, has made some startling discoveries. Researchers estimate that nearly half of all bacteria responsible for post surgery infection in the US are resistant to antibiotics. Among post-chemotherapy infections that have been treated by antibiotics, one in four is now estimated to be drug resistant, says the study.

The research was based on calculations done by increasing antibiotic resistance by a third among patients being treated with chemotherapy and others having common surgery, reports the BBC News. It was observed that in the US alone, there would be 6,300 more deaths and 120,000 more infections every year.

Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy in Washington DC, said, “This is the first study to estimate the impact of antibiotic resistance on broader medical care in the United States,” Japan Today reports. “A lot of common surgical procedures and cancer chemotherapy will be virtually impossible if antibiotic resistance is not tackled urgently.”

It was found that 50-90 percent of infections caused after rectal prostate biopsies and 39 percent of post-caesarean section infections were being caused by microbes that showed resistance to common antibiotics.  

Joshua Wolf of the Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, said, “the study describes a future in which patients who need surgery or chemotherapy can no longer be protected from life-threatening infections by antibiotics,” reports Japan Today." All clinicians have a responsibility to prevent this situation from becoming our patients’ reality.”

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