Sunday, June 26, 2011

Are Professional Medication Practices Giving Drug Resistance a Head Start?

New research done at Penn State has started to question the medication strategy generally accepted by health professionals. This strategy generally includes aggressive use of medications in order to kill all pathogens. This approach has been so broadly accepted for so long that it has not been questioned as it should.

Professor Andrew Read is the led professor on the research done at Penn State. Read is a professor of biology and entomology at Penn State as well as the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at the university. His research has brought up a new idea that the orthodox approach of aggressive medication may not actually be the best way to combat drug-resistant diseases but on the contrary may actually be promoting the expansion of these bacteria.

The process of a bacteria becoming resistant to a drug is a matter of evolution. Read uses malaria in Africa as a example for the aggressive use of a medication and the eventual resistance to that drug. Chloroquine was the drug of choice again malaria in Africa but is now useless because mutant parasites have formed that are resistant to the drug and continue to cause malaria. When these aggressive drug therapies are used all drug-sensitive parasites are being eliminated which in turn actually gives the drug-resistant parasites less competition and a better shot of actually infecting the body. Another example used is the bacterium MRSA that is known to be drug-resistant and a great enemy of hospitals in their fight to prevent and treat it.

Read's thought is that if these aggressive drugs are used more sparingly and with less aggression in order to allow the bodies immune system to catch up and do it's job. A lot of the time the immune system is just overwhelmed so by using these drugs more sparingly it can help eliminate enough of the pathogens that the immune system can actually eliminate the drug-resistant pathogens.

This more cautious approach of drug therapy will also help keep medications effective longer by delaying the formation of resistant strains of bacteria. The research by Read and everyone involved at Penn State is only the beginning to research that has the potential to change the protocol used for medicating patients. This research will help medical professionals find strategies for drug use that will keep drugs effective longer and help patients prevent, fight, and defeat many infectious diseases.


Penn State. "Current strategy for medicating patients may be giving many drug-resistant diseases a big competitive advantage."ScienceDaily, 23 Jun. 2011. Web. 26 Jun. 2011.

Read, Andrew F., Troy Day, and Silvie Huijben. "The Evolution of Drug Resistance and the Curious Orthodoxy of Aggressive Chemotherapy." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. National Academy of Sciences, 20 June 2011. Web. 26 June 2011.

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