LOS ANGELES COUNTY: ‘Super Bacteria’ Cases Increase
The number of cases involving a drug-resistant "super bacteria" have increased in Los Angeles County, and some officials are becoming increasingly alarmed as more healthy people contract the bug, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. People most susceptible to the super strains are those in hospitals and nursing homes who have been previously treated with antibiotics. However, physicians note that people in the general population who have not been hospitalized are contracting the super bacteria. Many blame the overuse of antibiotics. In one case, a 67-year-old patient at St. Joseph's Medical Center nearly died from an ear infection caused by a drug-resistant strain of Streptococcus pneumoniae. The germ was only subdued by treatment with vancomycin -- a toxic, expensive antibiotic viewed by many doctors as the "last line of defense" against super bacteria. Dr. Milton Louie, an infectious disease specialist who advises physicians as St. Joseph's, said, "I've been in practice for 20 years -- and this is something definitely different." According to county statistics, 24% of the 659 Streptococcus pneumoniae cases in 1998 involved penicillin- resistant bacteria; in the first six months of 1999, the number jumped to 28.9%. Physicians worry that bacteria will develop resistance to vancomycin as well. Dr. Brian Johnston, a member of the County Department of Health Services Health Advisory Committee, warned, "After vancomycin, you're going to see people dead" ( 2/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.