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FDA Approves New Antibiotic to Fight Resistant Bacteria

Aired April 18, 2000 - 2:03 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The FDA has just approved a new antibiotic, the first of its kind designed to attack the superbugs spreading through our hospitals. Doctors have been able to do little about these deadly infections, but now there's new hope.

CNN medical correspondent Holly Firfer has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOLLY FIRFER, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A new antibiotic called linezolid and marketed under the name of Zyvox will fight potentially deadly bacteria most commonly found in hospitals and nursing homes that have become resistant to other antibiotics.

DR. LEON SMITH, ST. MICHAEL'S MEDICAL CENTER: ... which is the most common pathogen, a bacteria called Staph aureus, Staphylococcus aureus, and Enterococcus. If you get it in the blood stream, you're a goner, you're dead.

You are dead.

FIRFER: According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 2.2 million people last year contracted an infection in the hospital; 88,000 died. Patients recovering from surgery, cancer patients and anyone with a severely weakened immune system are at a high risk of developing a secondary infection from bacteria.

DR. DAVID BELL, CDC: We've reached a situation after 50-some-odd years of antibiotic use where virtually every important human infection is becoming resistant to the drugs of choice.

L. SMITH: The bacteria are brilliant, you know. They are absolutely brilliant. They can change, they know how to fight back. They were here billions of years before we were, and they're going to be here billions of years after we're gone. They know how to adjust, they know how to mutate, they know how to survive.

FIRFER: A 20-inch fall which led to knee-replacement surgery almost cost Donna Smith her life.

DONNA SMITH, SURGICAL PATIENT: We decided to go ahead with the operation and I rejected it. And it just -- it got very infected, it went down in the bone, I was running a very high fever and I took kind of a dive in there. I got really, really sick.

FIRFER: After trying several antibiotics that did not work, doctors gave Donna Zyvox.

D. SMITH: I took it for six weeks and then an additional six weeks just to be sure that the infection was completely gone. It healed my leg and I was able to keep my leg and my life because of it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FIRFER: Although the development of new antibiotics is crucial, health experts say we need to treat the problem, not just the symptoms. We need to prevent infection, transmissions in the hospitals and stop over-using the drugs that are out there. Fifty million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions are written each year and, Natalie, that's helping fuel the drug-resistance problem in our country.

ALLEN: So will these antibiotics that are on the market now still be used?

FIRFER: Yes, they will still use some of them, but Zyvox is another alternative that will be available for those infections that are resistant to what's out there, and doctors hope they can shelve some of the drugs that are not working today for possible use at a later date when maybe the bacteria might have mutated or is no longer resistant and thus prolong the life and its efficacy.

ALLEN: All right, Holly Firfer. Thanks, Holly.

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