NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Super bugs that turn antibiotics into weaklings have scientists racing to find more potent drugs. It is a topic being discussed this week in New Orleans.
This as it is predicted that drug resistant infections could begin killing more people than cancer.
"We're seeing a lot of bacteria that have resistance to a lot of our commonly used antibiotics," said Dr. Nicholas Van Sickles, M.D., a Tulane Infectious Disease Specialist.
Commonly called "super bugs," they are strains of bacteria that have bulked-up to the point that antibiotics do not effectively back them down.
"They'll do it fast, they multiply fast so we give them a chance by treating things like sinus infections which are usually viral and don't really have much of a benefit from antibiotics or simple colds in your upper respiratory infections. The antibiotics give all the bacteria living in our body a chance," said Dr. Van Sickels.
He said the ineffectiveness of antibiotics should concern us all.
"You should be worried about it because if you go to the hospital or if you get an infection you want to be able to be treated. You want to be able to be treated appropriately and sometimes we have even high-powered IV antibiotics for patients who have simple infections," stated Dr. Van Sickels.
And so the pressure is on to develop newer antibiotics that can stand up to the evolving bugs.
"This could become the new cancer coming up in the years to come," said Mike Dudley, Pharm.D., and Sr. V.P. of The Medicines Company.
Currently, physicians, pharmacists and micro-biologists are meeting in New Orleans for Infectious Disease, or ID week and a big topic is the development of more potent drugs to fight super infections.
"On a world-wide basis, it's predicted that if we don't do anything about combating anti-microbial drug-resistant bacterial that we can expect that by 2050 that we will have 10-million deaths that will be occurring world-wide as a result of that. That's more than what you see with cancer," said Dr. Dudley.
And Dr. Van Sickels thinks it would be great if more physicians were able to do rapid testing on patients to determine if they actually need antibiotics.
"What we would ideally like as a point of care test, meaning we do a finger stick, or we squab you somewhere and we know on the spot if you have an infection and then we can treat you with the right medicine," he said.
For years, Vancomycin was called an antibiotic of last resort for stubborn infections. In recent years, newer ones have emerged, one of which Dr. Dudley was speaking about at the conference.
"[It] Is a drug that is more potent than Vancomycin against these bacteria, but more importantly that someone can receive a course of therapy in a single dose of the drug," he said during an interview with FOX 8 News.
Dr. Van Sickels said while medical providers are urged to exercise antibiotics stewardship, he thinks some may have prescribed antibiotics for fear they may have missed a bacterial infection in a patient.
"But overriding that is the rapid evolution of that infection called Cloistridium Difficile, the bad diarrhea that comes from having antibiotic exposure. All this antibiotic resistance that's spreading in the community, in our nursing homes, in our hospitals, making it very difficult to treat patients. I see this all the time," said Dr. Van Sickels.
He added that patients should not be afraid to speak up when prescribed antibiotics.
"Ask your practitioner, 'Do I really need the antibiotic? Is it really indicative for this infection that I have?'" said Van Sickels.