A History of Superbugs

Posted by Karen Buckley • December 16th, 2010

In his Perspective article, “NDM-1 – A Cause for Worldwide Concern,” Dr. Robert Moellering from Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center says we should all be wary of NDM-1, the most recently reported superbug. Some of NDM-1′s organisms are resistant to all antimicrobial agents except the polymyxins, a trait that he says makes NDM-1 “frightening.” However, concern about antimicrobial resistance is not new, he points out, citing several articles from the NEJM Archive.

A 1960 editorial accompanying an article on novobiocin and tetracycline decried the overuse of antibiotics and the irrational use of fixed combinations of antimicrobials, which were widely manufactured and prescribed by the pharmaceutical industry at that time. Another article on transmissibility of staphylococci noted that the administration of tetracycline to hospitalized patients increased the rate of nasopharyngeal colonization with S. aureus, much of which exhibited tetracycline resistance. Another Journal editorial on antibiotic resistance quoted a study from Hammersmith Hospital clearly showing that limiting the use of antimicrobial agents in the hospital setting was associated with a decrease in resistance to penicillin and tetracycline among staphylococci.

Read the Perspective and these articles from the NEJM Archive now.

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