Tuesday, June 15, 2010

When Kindness Kills

The West is becoming much better at getting badly needed drugs to disease ravaged countries. The problem is those drugs are leading to the evolution of drug-resistant, "super bugs." From Reuters:

The World Health Organization, governments and nonprofit groups are saving lives by distributing drugs to developing countries, but they are not paying enough attention to the dangers of drug-resistant bugs, according to a report released on Tuesday.

Many such drug distribution programs may be driving drug resistance and endangering the lives they are meant to save, according to the report from the Center for Global Development.

"Drug resistance is a natural occurrence, but careless practices in drug supply and use are hastening it unnecessarily," the Center's Rachel Nugent, who led the group writing the report, said in a statement.

...Bacteria and viruses begin to evolve resistance to drugs almost as soon as they first encounter them. If drug treatment leaves even one microbe alive, it will reproduce and whatever genetic attributes helped it survive will be multiplied in the next generation. Millions of children in the developing world die every year from drug-resistant strains of malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS and other diseases, the report found.

...Poor quality drugs, counterfeit drugs, incomplete use of drugs and other factors all contribute to the problem, the report found. And this problem will worsen as drug access programs succeed, it cautions.

..."While increased access to necessary drugs is clearly desirable, it brings challenges in preserving the efficacy of these drugs and ensuring they are used appropriately."
For instance, in 2008, an estimated 440,000 cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis emerged.

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