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More bacteria fight off drugs, study says

One of nature's most common and dangerous _ disease-causing bacteria is developing antibiotic-resistant strains at an increasing rate, the latest evidence that overuse of these "wonder drugs" is causing them to lose their effectiveness.

A report in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found that the rate of multidrug resistance for the microbe Streptococcus pneumoniae had increased from 9 percent to 14 percent from 1995 to 1998. Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of bacterial meningitis, pneumonia and inner ear infections in the United States.

"The emergence of S. pneumoniae with anti-microbial resistance is a matter of great concern," said the research team, led by Cynthia Whitney of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Multi-drug-resistant pneumococci are common and are increasing."

The chief culprit in microbial resistance is overuse of antibiotics, the team said, and in an editorial accompanying the study, Richard Wenzel and Michael Edmond of Virginia Commonwealth University noted that about 25,000 tons of antibiotics are consumed each year in the United States, about half by humans and the rest by livestock and agriculture.

ALASKA NATIVES: New research from the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage shows that a bacteria found in many Alaska natives and linked to stomach cancer and bleeding ulcers is highly resistant to antibiotics, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

The bacteria, Helicobacter pylori, is prevalent among Alaska natives. Previous studies found that 30 percent to 40 percent of adults in the United States are infected with the bacteria, compared to a rate among Alaska natives ranging from 60 percent to 80 percent.

The new research was conducted jointly by the Native Medical Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Anchorage. Studies have linked the bug to bleeding ulcers and scientists suspect it also contributes to anemia among native youth.

VA does well in treating

heart attacks, report says

Veterans hospitals don't deserve their reputation as inferior, at least when it comes to treating heart attack victims, a study found.

Researchers at the Houston VA Medical Center found that although the VA patients were sicker than Medicare patients taken to private hospitals, the same percentages in each group, 68 percent, were still alive a year after a heart attack. At one month afterward, 82 percent of the patients in each group were still alive.

Dr. Laura A. Petersen, who led the study, said more research is needed on how well VA hospitals do in other types of care. The research was reported today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

U.S. rebukes company

for its tainted drugs

SAN FRANCISCO _ Federal officials have reprimanded Genentech after some of its drugs for strokes, breast cancer and cystic fibrosis were found to be contaminated or exposed to unusual conditions.

The Food and Drug Administration ordered the company in a warning letter to improve quality control at its South San Francisco manufacturing plant or face fines or suspension of its license.

The drugs are Pulmozyme for cystic fibrosis, Herceptin for breast cancer and Activase for strokes.

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