NEWS

New microbes unaffected by old antibiotics

Resistance to microbes due to the abuse of advanced antibiotics has become a major problem. There are no other therapies for diseases such as pseudomonas and acinetobacter that strike patients whose immune systems have been suppressed or who are in intensive-care units. Sometimes fatal At the same time, new pathogenic resistant microbes are appearing in patients who have not been in hospital. One of these resistant staphylococci, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which has just recently appeared, is causing the medical community concern as it causes incurable skin infections and sometimes fatal pneumonia. An attempt is under way via WHONET, funded by the Center for the Control of Special Infections, to brief the medical community and the public about this new public health issue. The new clone represents, according to research, up to 20 percent of staphylococci that affect patients outside hospitals and, if not caught early, are likely to cause minor epidemics and even deaths. Recent studies show that Greeks consume the greatest number of antibiotics, such as cephalosporins, prescribed for bacterial infections and macrolides, used to treat respiratory infections. This excessive use is inevitably linked to the rapid increase in the resistance of streptococci and pneumonococci to these antibiotics. According to Professor Alkiviadis Vatopoulos, of the National Public Health School’s Microbiology Department, one in three streptococci and pneumococci that cause respiratory infections are resistant to macrolides. «Meanwhile, certain microorganisms that are resistant to the strongest antibiotics in circulation have made their appearance in Greek hospitals. Greece is the first country in Europe where this degree of resistance has appeared, and there is at least one documented case where it has been exported to France,» he said. Greece has another unique feature. Although staphylococcus is the fifth most frequent infection in hospitals, there is a very high percentage (40 percent) of resistant microbes. Most patients are infected during their stay in hospital and the infection could last several months, in some cases even be fatal. The problem of the wide distribution of this resistant staphylococcus has been linked to inadequate hygiene, since the microbe is transmitted from one patient to another by the hands of staff.