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Drug-Resistant Germs Fought

May 17, 1998

BOSTON (AP) _ Doctors revealed Sunday that they’ve successfully tested a drug that’s part of the first new class of antibiotics to be developed in more than a decade.

At a conference on infectious diseases, doctors said the drug linezolid has become the first new antibiotic to be selected for trials among humans.

An increasing number of common bacteria strains have mutated to become resistant to common antibiotics, sending doctors and researchers scrambling to come up with new medicines.

``There’s a real need now for new drugs,″ said Dr. Robert C. Moellering Jr., associate physician-in-chief at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a Harvard Medical School professor. ``This drug is exciting. ... It’s unique in terms of the way it works, which means that many resistant bacteria will not be cross-resistant to this drug.″

If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, linezolid would be used to fight ``gram-positive″ bacteria, which cause such ailments as pneumonia and skin infections.

Overuse of antibiotics kills off vulnerable strains of bacteria and favors those with traits that can resist antibiotic action.

In its most recent trials, linezolid, being developed by Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Pharmacia & Upjohn, was tested on more than 300 hospitalized patients. Success rates for treating pneumonia and other illnesses were 90 percent or higher.

Moellering said it’s unlikely that, if approved, the drug would be available before 2000.

``It’s not going to be new drugs alone that (provide) a solution,″ said Dr. Timothy Brewer, program director for the International Society for Infectious Diseases and a tuberculosis researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

``We also need more appropriate use of antibiotics and national policies to ... increase awareness,″ he said. ``When you go to the doctor with a cold, you shouldn’t be expecting to get antibiotics.″

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