Pressure Grows To Create Drugs For ‘Superbugs’

Government officials, drug companies and medical experts, faced with outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” are pushing to speed up the approval of new antibiotics, a move that is raising safety concerns among some critics.

The need for new antibiotics is so urgent, supporters of an overhaul say, that lengthy studies involving hundreds or thousands of patients should be waived in favor of directly testing such drugs in very sick patients.  Influential lawmakers have said they are prepared to support legislation that allows for faster testing.

The Health and Human Services Department last month announced an agreement under which it will pay $40 million to a major drug maker, GlaxoSmithKline, to help it develop medications to combat antibiotic resistance and biological agents that terrorists might use.  Under the plan, the federal government could give the drug company as much as $200 million over the next five years.

“We are facing a huge crisis worldwide not having an antibiotics pipeline,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration.  “It is bad now, and the infectious disease docs are frantic.  But what is worse is the thought of where we will be five to 10 years from now.”

Read more:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/03/health/experts-debate-plan-to-speed-antibiotic-development.html?hp&_r=0

Flu Cases In Pennsylvania Spike

The holidays offer a chance to gather with faraway family and snuggle by the tree.  But according to the latest numbers from the state Department of Health, many of us have been sharing a lot more than gifts.

The number of reported flu cases soared the week before Christmas to 2,196, more than double the 933 reported one week earlier. Before Dec. 8, there had been a total of 848 cases statewide.  One influenza-related death has been reported as well.

The trend in Pennsylvania is consistent with the numbers nationwide.

“It’s certainly a bigger flu season than we had during the past two years,” said Dr. Luther V. Rhodes, an infectious disease specialist at Lehigh Valley Health Network.

Read more:  http://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-early-flu-season-pa-20121228,0,5869559.story

UPDATED: West Nile Outbreak ‘One Of Largest’ In U.S.

Editor’s note:  Since we are on a roll about bugs, this seems to be a good follow-up!

Updated at 1:37 p.m.) ATLANTA — U.S. health officials reported Wednesday three times the usual number of West Nile cases for this time of year and one expert called it “one of the largest” outbreaks since the virus appeared in this country in 1999.

So far, 1,118 illnesses have been reported, about half of them in Texas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In an average year, fewer than 300 cases are reported by mid-August. There have also been 41 deaths this year.

“We’re in the midst of one of the largest West Nile outbreaks ever seen in the United States,” said Dr. Lyle Petersen, a CDC official.

Never before have so many illnesses been reported this early, said Petersen, who oversees the CDC’s mosquito-borne illness programs.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20120822/NEWS04/120829830/updated-west-nile-outbreak-one-of-largest-in-u-s-