10/22/2010 - The challenges in fighting antibiotic-resistant germs, known as superbugs, are much larger than the Oct. 12 Health section article "A very scary gene" conveyed.
The NDM-1 gene, which the article said was widespread in India, is just one example of how bacteria are outsmarting lifesaving antibiotics and making it harder for doctors to treat pneumonia, tuberculosis, staph and other infections. But this is a problem that goes beyond science and medicine, and we need our nation's leaders to get involved.
Resistance is caused by overuse and misuse of antibiotics in humans and other animals, and it is made worse by our failure to invest adequately in the development of drugs. The drugs in the pipeline to replace ineffective antibiotics has dwindled to a trickle. We need public policies that not only protect the antibiotics we have today but also ensure that we will have the new ones we need tomorrow.
Allan Coukell is director of Medical Safety in the Pew Health Group