Catching up to MRSA news (not about me)

Constant readers: I’m looking forward to having the breathing space to get back to in-depth blogging. Meanwhile, though, news is zipping by — so here’s a quick list of recent things worth reading.

“Cows on Drugs” — a superb history of the 30-year-old fight to get unnecessary antibiotics out of food animals. Note, written by a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, not exactly a wild-eyed radical:

More than 30 years ago, when I was commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration, we proposed eliminating the use of penicillin and two other antibiotics to promote growth in animals raised for food. When agribusiness interests persuaded Congress not to approve that regulation, we saw firsthand how strong politics can trump wise policy and good science.Even back then, this nontherapeutic use of antibiotics was being linked to the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that infect humans. To the leading microbiologists on the F.D.A.’s advisory committee, it was clearly a very bad idea to fatten animals with the same antibiotics used to treat people. But the American Meat Institute and its lobbyists in Washington blocked the F.D.A. proposal.

 Antibiotic resistance in your kitchen, playroom, car... — After years of begging from health advocates, the FDA and EPA are taking a second look at the chemical compound triclosan, an antibacterial that is put into, well, almost anything you can name: soaps, hand sanitizers, cutting boards, toys. Triclosan is suspected of interfering with hormone regulation in the body, and also increases resistance in organisms in our environment. (When I ask you to use hand sanitizers that contain only alcohol or salts, not antibacterials, triclosan is one of the things I’m thinking of.) The FDA will report its findings in a year. I’d rather see it happen sooner, but it’s a great move.

No progress on hospital-acquired infections — The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, has published its 2009 National Healthcare Quality Report. The news is not good. To quote the agency’s own language: “Very little progress has been made on eliminating health care-associated infections.” This is all hospital-acquired infections, not just MRSA, but MRSA is a leading organism. The ugly details:

  • Post-operative bloodstream infections up 8%
  • Post-operative catheter-associated urinary-tract infections up 3.6%
  • “Selected infections due to medical care” up by 1.6%
  • Bloodstream infections as a result of central lines unchanged.

(NB, three professional organizations — the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control — put out a statement in response to this report saying it “presents an outdated and incomplete picture on healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) in our healthcare system.” The gist of the statement seems to be that they’ve got better numbers coming… soon. When there’s actual data, I’ll let you know.)


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