Recently I treated a previously healthy 24-year-old graduate student who was brought to our emergency room. She could not keep fluids down, her blood pressure was abnormally low, she was terribly weak, and she had a fever.
Several days before, she had been treated at an urgent care center for symptoms of a urinary tract infection, but the oral antibiotic she was given (ciprofloxacin) wasn’t working. We admitted the patient to the ICU, where she was intubated, and we replenished her fluids. Her chest x-ray showed severe lung disease, consistent with acute respiratory distress syndrome. Blood and urine cultures identified the culprit: A multiply resistant strain of extended-spectrum beta lactamase (ESBL)-producing E. coli.
Fortunately, we were able to save her using a few of the remaining and effective antibiotics still left in our arsenal. She improved, was able to leave the ICU after a few days, and eventually went home, where she received IV antibiotics for another seven days.
As IDSA members well know, this patient was lucky. As resistance rates continue to rise, and the antimicrobial development pipeline remains dry, even common, everyday infections are becoming harder to treat and are increasingly life threatening.
The next several months offer a critical window of opportunity in Washington to help address the lack of new antimicrobial development. Interest on Capitol Hill is growing, hearings have been held, and an important bill, the Generating Antibiotics Incentives Now (GAIN) Act, has been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate. IDSA is doing everything it can on many fronts on this issue. But to build on this momentum and get legislation passed in 2012, we need you, our members, to be the difference makers.
How can you help? Share a brief vignette or anecdote, like mine above, showing how antimicrobial resistance is impacting your ability to care for patients. Just 200 words or so in length, and without any patient identifying information, these accounts are powerful tools that educate policymakers and drive home the need for action. Also, visit IDSA’s “Take Action” webpage to send messages to your representatives in Congress and urge your colleagues to do the same. Stay tuned for other ways to make sure the voice of ID specialists is heard on this critical issue.
The lack of antimicrobial development coupled with the rise in drug resistance is a growing crisis that threatens patients’ lives and the very foundations of modern medical care. IDSA members know this all too well. By sharing your front-line perspectives and participating in other advocacy efforts, you can make a big difference. Please start today.
For more on IDSA’s advocacy efforts in this area, see the related article in this issue.
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