March 1998

Media Contacts: Holly Korschun, 404/727-3990 --
Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 -
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 -

ATLANTA--A seven-state survey of pneumococcal infections from July 1996 to June 1997 has identified substantial numbers of samples that were resistant to one or more of the most commonly used antibiotics. Significant increases were noted in resistance to erythromycin and in multi-drug resistance, the survey found. The laboratory surveillance was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emerging Infections Programs at a number of universities and state health departments. The findings were presented at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta on March 11 .

Emory University School of Medicine infectious disease specialist Monica Farley, M.D., led the Georgia component of the survey. Out of 3,701 cases of invasive pneumococcal disease identified, thus far the researchers have tested 2,578 isolates for susceptibility to antibiotics. Overall, 23.9% of cases were not susceptible to penicillin, 11.9% were not susceptible to cefotaxime and 14.6% were not susceptible to erythromycin. Compared to the previous year, a higher proportion of the recent cases were not susceptible to erythromycin (14.6% vs. 10.5%), but only small differences were noted in penicillin and cefotaxime resistance. Although the proportion of cases not susceptible to two kinds of drugs changed very little from year to year, the proportion of cases not susceptible to three kinds of drugs was significantly higher from one year to the next (13.2% vs. 9.4%). In California, this proportion changed from 5.5% to 12.5% from one year to the next and in Tennessee from 16.6% to 22.9%.

These significant increases in drug resistance, the study sponsors concluded, should be a warning signal for concerted efforts to promote vaccination and more judicious use of antibiotics to limit the impact and reduce the prevalence of drug-resistant pneumonia.


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