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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Antibiotic Misuse Turns Treatable to Incurable
Olson, Elizabeth
June 13, 2000
New York Times (www.nytimes.com) (06/13/00) P. D2

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that some diseases that were once treatable with antibiotics are now incurable due to misuse of the drugs and overprescribing. The WHO said that one of the "major health care disasters of the 20th century" is the abuse of antibiotics such that gonorrhea has shifted from "a once-curable nuisance, into a potentially life-threatening contagion." In many parts of Southeast Asia, penicillin has become virtually useless in treating gonorrhea strains, and untreated the disease can help spread HIV. Dr. David Heymann, head of the WHO's program on communicable diseases, said, "If we hadn't eradicated smallpox in 1980, we probably couldn't today." He pointed out that the HIV epidemic and the lowered immunity it generates would also challenge the efficacy of the vaccine against smallpox. The WHO called for a global effort to increase vaccinations against preventable diseases and to educate both healthcare workers and the public about how to use medicine. The agency recommended a reduction in the use of drugs for animal growth. The report said that drug resistance was a problem for several diseases, including tuberculosis, pneumonia, malaria, diarrheal diseases, typhoid, and hepatitis.

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