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Can Using Antibiotics Be Unethical?

Scanning electron micrograph of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (...

Credit: NIAID

Above: Scanning electron micrograph of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA, brown) surrounded by cellular debris. MRSA resists treatment with many antibiotics.

Can Using Antibiotics Be Unethical?


Dr. Victor Nizet, professor, UC San Diego School of Medicine


Drug-resistant bacteria kill more than 23,000 Americans each year and infect another 2 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But even as San Diego scientists come up with more powerful antibiotics to stave off these superbugs, researchers admit those breakthroughs will just delay when antibiotics stop being effective.

The Center for Ethics in Science and Technology is hosting a forum Wednesday night on the ramifications of overusing antibiotics and what may replace the shrinking supply of these drugs.

Dr. Victor Nizet, a professor at UC San Diego's School of Medicine, is working on alternative treatments for patients, including improving white blood cells' ability to naturally kill bacteria or removing the toxic properties of some bacteria to make them essentially harmless. He's also co-leading UC San Diego's Collaborative to Halt Antibiotic-Resistant Microbes.

Nizet, who is presenting at the Center for Ethics' forum, joins KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday with more on harnessing humans' microbiomes to fight disease without antibiotics.

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