Can Using Antibiotics Be Unethical?
There was a time not that long ago antibiotics were used to treat everything from rashes to the common cold. Because they were used so often bacteria started to develop resistance and antibiotics started not to work. The CDC estimates more than 2 million people get sick from antibiotic resistant bacteria every year causing 23,000 deaths. The center for ethics in science and technology host a forum tonight on the ramifications of overusing antibiotics and what may replace our shrinking supply of these drugs. A professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego school of medicine will be part of the event and joins me now welcome to the program. Pleasure to be here. Who should be thinking about the ethical use of these drugs? Is it a question for doctors patients or drugmakers are all of the above.'s neck all of the above. The society at large the government and regulatory agencies all have roles. Should patients ask more questions when antibiotics are prescribed like do I really need this. I think absolutely. Antibiotics for many years look that as a relatively innocuous therapy. You might have a child who has an ear that looks red you wonder if it could be on infection. Just to be safe prescribed some antibiotics. New research is showing that antibiotics can have widespread effects on the good citizen bacteria of the body. We have normal microbes known as our microbe biome that populate Erica and skin and other surfaces on our body and they outnumber the other cells in about a 10 to 1. Research shows they play very important roles in our health. In connection with the research to the microbiota you have a project with UC San Diego Professor Robert night cofounder of the American get projects to set up a database of patients and what treatments work for them. Instead of just routinely prescribing antibiotics as he was saying earlier. Described that a little bit more. How would it work compiling the database and what with the treatments that arose from the database be. We believe that to really understand treatment of the infectious disease and make it most effective and preserve the health of the individual you have to look at treatment and the whole system. That means not only are what the effects of the antibiotic on the bacteria which is causing the infection but the effects on the human patient really is an ecosystem of microbes. This type of personalized therapy where the choice of antibiotics might not only involve the pathogen you are trying to eliminate but the good bacteria you are trying to preserve I think will be part of future therapy. Also the development of alternatives to antibiotics that would have effectiveness against infections that could work with your immune system to clear infection that would not return the microbiota in the first place. Coming back to the ethical questions surrounding the use of antibiotics. Considering that traditional antibiotics have made the pathogens and bacteria stronger through the years should research into those traditional antibiotics stop and more concentration be given to the kind of procedures and treatments that you just outlined. I think infectious disease research and antibiotic discovery is a victim of its own success. We bred a complacency among the doctors and the patients and the public at large really. Antibiotics have cured more patient than all the other drug classes combined because of that we have not been debating in this space. Now we have a pressing challenge to the public health and modern medicine as we practice it and we need to re-address this issue in a new way if you have staph aureus for example circulating in your bloodstream it should not be there and yet in the treatment of infectious diseases right now the immune system is largely ignored we look at the list of chemicals that can kill the particular bacteria and try to pick the most potent one and take the adverse consequences on the microbiota contrasts that with cancer therapy. So many cancers have terrible treatment outcomes as he might be aware in the last decade or so there have been revolutionary changes in cancer therapy in which instead of just killing all of the dividing cells in the body which is the way the original cancer drug worked you have very targeted drug cycle after the mutation that is precisely implicated in the cancer cell and that's exactly what we can do with infectious disease therapy we can design drugs that target the federal's -- purulent's factors of the toxin and the facts that make them resistant to immune clearance. These types of drugs do not kill the bacteria and is they do not kill your good bacteria either but they just render the bacteria harmless or easy to be cleared by the immune system and that way you are partnering with the immune system. I've been speaking with this Doctor a professor of pediatrics at the San Diego school of Mexican -- medicine. He will be speaking at the science and technology forum tonight starting at 5:00 at the fleet science center. Thank you so much. It was a pleasure to be here.
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.