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Infectious Diseases Society of America urges pharmacies to educate consumers on antibiotics

BY Michael Johnsen

ARLINGTON, Va. The Infectious Diseases Society of America on Wednesday reached out to several supermarket pharmacies offering free antibiotics to their customers, urging the pharmacies to join “Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work,” a campaign from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to educate consumers about the importance of using antibiotics appropriately.

The letters were addressed to Wegmans, ShopRite, Stop and Shop and Giant, and suggested that supermarkets could educate their consumers on appropriate use of antibiotics with CDC’s easy-to-understand posters, brochures and other educational materials.

 

“As influenza season shifts into high gear, with 24 states now reporting widespread activity, the nation’s infectious diseases experts are urging supermarket pharmacies with free-antibiotics promotions to educate their customers on when antibiotics are the right prescription — and when they can do more harm than good,” IDSA stated.

Even though many of the pharmacies dispense the antibiotics at no cost to the customer, the drugs are still only available with a doctor’s prescription.

“Taking an antibiotic when you don’t need it won’t help you, and may in fact do more harm than good,” commented IDSA president Anne Gershon. “At a time when antibiotic overuse is helping to create drug-resistant superbugs such as MRSA and few new antibiotics are being developed, supermarkets need to be responsible in how they promote antibiotics.”

Several grocery store chains nationwide began offering free antibiotics this winter. Some are linking the promotion to cold and flu season, despite the fact that antibiotics do not work against these viral illnesses, IDSA noted. Furthermore, antibiotics can have serious side effects, and their misuse is contributing to the increase in antibiotic-resistant infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Studies show many people believe that antibiotics can cure a cold or the flu, and tend to ask or pressure their clinicians to provide them.

Every year, tens of thousands of people are prescribed antibiotics for these conditions, even though they will do no good and can be harmful. A recent study in Clinical Infectious Diseases estimates that antibiotics are responsible for 142,000 emergency department visits each year, mostly because of allergic reactions.

“Supermarkets have the power to protect their customers’ health,” commented Lauri Hicks, medical director of CDC’s “Get Smart” program. “If they sought to educate people about when antibiotics work and when they don’t, they would be doing a great public service.”

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Researchers find possible targets for UTI drugs

BY Michael Johnsen

ST. LOUIS Potential targets for new drugs to fight the bacteria that cause many urinary tract infections have been identified by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Washington.

Researchers found that E. coli strains culled from urine samples of women with UTI produce more yersiniabactin and salmochelin, two siderophores that help bacteria scavenge iron to support their own survival. This could help lead to the development of antibiotics that target pathogenic E. coli strains without harming beneficial bacteria in the gut. The findings appear in the Feb. 20 online issue of PLoS Pathogens.

“When we treat an infection with antibiotics, it’s like dropping a bomb — nearly everything gets wiped out, regardless of whether it’s helpful or harmful,” stated lead author Jeff Henderson, a Washington University infectious disease specialist who treats patients with UTIs at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “We’d like to find ways to target the bad bacteria and leave the good bacteria alone, and these siderophores are a great lead in that direction.”

UTIs are one of the most common infections, causing around $1.6 billion in medical expenses every year in the United States. Half of all women will experience a UTI at some point in their lives, and recurrent UTIs affect 20% to 40% of these patients. Scientists believe 90% of all UTIs are caused by the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli).

The E. coli that cause UTIs may come from the human gut, where several strains of the bacteria reside. Scientists think some of those strains help their human hosts by aiding digestion and blocking other infectious organisms.

“To steal iron, siderophores have to be sent out from the cell, bind to the iron, and then be taken back into the cell,” Henderson said. “If we can design an antibiotic that looks like a siderophore, we might be able to trick only disease-causing bacteria into taking up the drug while leaving other bacteria alone.”

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Research shows women at greater risk of stroke

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN DIEGO It is a common public misperception that men are at greater risk of stroke and stroke death. In truth, women accounted for 61% of stroke deaths in the United States in 2004, according to American Heart Association statistics shared last week at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference.

However, there is a gender disparity in how women are treated for stroke as compared to men. Researchers at Michigan State University performed a meta-analysis of gender differences in the use of the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator and found women are less likely to receive it than men, for example. The odds of women receiving the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) after an acute ischemic stroke was 30% lower than men.

Another Michigan study documented that women are more likely to report “non-traditional” stroke symptoms such as an altered mental state. Women with a stroke or transient ischemic attack were roughly 40% more likely than men to report non-traditional symptoms — especially altered mental status (disorientation, confusion or loss of consciousness), researchers said.

Researchers defined traditional stroke symptoms such as numbness or weakness on one side of the body, double vision, trouble speaking and comprehending words, loss of coordination and facial weakness. Non-traditional symptoms were defined as pain, mental status change, headache or other.

Previous research has indicated that women are more likely to report non-traditional stroke symptoms, which may delay appropriate stroke treatment.

In the study, 52% of women reported one or more non-traditional stroke/TIA symptoms, as did 44% of men. Altered mental status was reported by 23% of women, but only 15% of men.

The findings indicate the need for further study to improve awareness of non-traditional stroke symptoms in women and to understand their potential clinical consequences, including decreased tPA use in women, researchers said.

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