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Anyone know about antibiotic-resistant infections?

By Anonymous April 22, 2009 - 3:31pm
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My mom is currently in the hospital being treated for an infection near her vocal chords. She is being treated with IV antibiotics and is slowly getting better, but is still in ICU (in case her swollen throat closes up & she can't breathe). She has a fever that goes up (not as high as 103, when she was admitted) & down & her blood cell count it back to normal, but she may still be in the hospital for a while fighting this thing. Doctors don't know why she is not reacting better to antibiotics. This infection is normally found in children & antibiotics normally clear it up in 4 days. She has been in the hospital in ICU for 6 days now. Her immunity may be lower due to radiation she had 3 years ago when she had breast cancer treatments, but that is just a guess.

Anyone heard of something like this before?

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Hey anon, We asked a very highly regarded breast cancer expert if your mother's breast cancer treatments may have had caused some antibiotic resistant tendencies. Here was her response ...

"If she had very recently had radiation then there is a chance that there is a connection, but not if she completed radiation more than a year ago."

That answer was shared by Lillie Shockney, RN., BS., MAS, and University Distinguished Service Assistant Professor of Breast Cancer and Administrative Director of Breast Center at Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center.

April 26, 2009 - 5:52am
EmpowHER Guest

You don't say where in the world you live; however, you should familiarize yourself with the medical literature on phage therapy. There is an excellent article in the April 2009 issue of Popular Science, page 60 - The next phage. You can also get the article by going to
http://www.popsci.com/node/33278 and you should read all the comments. Perhaps you could introduce other young people to the subject as antibiotic-resistant superbugs are becomming an important public health issue.
Below is some more information:

In Canada the official body counters tell us that "an estimated 220,000 patients who walk through the doors of hospitals each year suffer the unintended and often devastating consequences of an infection" and they also estimate that 8,000 to 12,000 Canadian patients die annually from such infections. In the USA the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus seriously sickened more than 94,000 Americans in 2005 and almost 19,000 died, more than the 17,000 Americans who died of AIDS-related causes.

However, the joke is on us because the French-Canadian microbiologist, Felix d'Herelle, discovered phage therapy in 1917. Phage therapy uses highly specific viruses, bacteriophages, which have been observed to be harmless for humans, to treat bacterial infections, including infections caused by superbugs. While there is considerable expertise on phage therapy in Canada and the USA at the research level, medical phage therapy is not currently approved or practised in Canada; however, it can be made available legally to Canadian patients under the Special Access Program of our Food & Drugs Act! There are moral and ethical reasons for making phage therapy available in countries that are members of The World Medical Association which states: "In the treatment of a patient, where proven prophylactic, diagnostic and therapeutic methods do not exist or have been ineffective, the physician, with informed consent from the patient, must be free to use unproven or new prophylactic, diagnostic and therapeutic measures, if in the physician's judgement it offers hope of saving life." A recent paper in English from Poland entitled: "Phage therapy of staphylococcal infections (including MRSA) may be less expensive than antibiotics (2007)" could serve as a model for the introduction of phage therapy in North America since our laws appear similar to those described for Poland ( paper can be found at http://www.gangagen.com/newsroomframe.htm ).

A discussion of phage therapy is currently very timely, not only because too many patients are dying of superbug infections; but also because of the recent release of the Canadian film: Killer Cure: The Amazing Adventures of Bacteriophage and the June 2006 release of the book by Thomas Haeusler entitled, Viruses vs. Superbugs, a solution to the antibiotics crisis? ( see http://www.bacteriophagetherapy.info ). There is a record of an excellent questions-and-answers session on phage therapy with Dr. Roger Johnson of the Public Health Agency of Canada at ttp://meristem.com/topstories/ts06_08.html .

Further, the phage therapy file has dramatically changed because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has amended the US food additive regulations to provide for the safe use of a bacteriophage preparation on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products as an antimicrobial agent against Listeria monocytogenes (see http://www.fda.gov/OHRMS/DOCKETS/98fr/02f-0316-nfr0001.pdf ). An enlightening FDA questions-and-answers document can be found at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/opabacqa.html . Listeria causes an estimated 2,500 cases of mainly food borne infections in the USA annually and as many as 500 deaths; however, the idea that ready-to-eat meat can be treated, if contaminated with Listeria bacteria, while a doctor could not get a pharmaceutical grade phage therapy product when faced with a patient suffering listeriosis strikes this author as absurd. Superbugs should be of interest to everybody because sooner or later everybody will be faced with an infection or know someone who will be suffering or dying with one. Withholding such treatment from patients when antibiotics are failing ought to be a crime; however, those who have the money, knowledge and time to travel when faced with an infection where antibiotics are failing may be able to get phage therapy treatment in Georgia , Europe ( http://www.phagetherapycenter.com ), Poland - http://www.aite.wroclaw.pl/phages/phages.html or more recently at the Wound Care Center, Lubbock, Texas ( http://www.woundcarecenter.net/ ) .

April 24, 2009 - 5:47pm

Dear Anon, I am sorry your mom is having a tough time with her stay at the hospital. Recent medical data shows that Americans are becoming more resistant to responding to antibiotic treatment for many types of bacterium. I am not surprise to read about your mom's case, it seems to be the trend. You mentioned the fact that your mom has undergone radiation therapy, it is very possible that her immune system is experiencing the necessary amount of T-cells to fight infection.

T-cells, or lymphocytes, are the body's natural defense mechanism against infection, directly attacking foreign bodies such as bacteria and viruses. The body contains millions of different lymphocytes that fight specific infectious microbes. Research published in this area suggests that having a wide variety of each specific T-cell in fewer quantities leads to optimal survival and activity of these infection-fighting cells. Competition within each type of T-cell allows the body to maintain a diverse inventory of natural infection fighters.

I think your mom could benefit from seeking a health care professional that can help her rebuild her immune system once she leaves the hospital. There are many options out there and a Naturopathic doctor will be a best bet.

April 24, 2009 - 1:27pm

Hey anon, I'm sorry to hear about your mother. It's great you're advocating for her health. We are posing your question to a breast cancer expert to see if she can respond to whether breast cancer treatment has any affect on future medications. Do you happen to know which antibiotic she's taking?

April 23, 2009 - 2:48pm
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