Tue, Sep 20, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Antibiotic use for SARS assisted HK's superbugs

DPA , HONG KONG

Superbugs are striking down hospital patients in Hong Kong because of the widescale use of strong antibiotics during the SARS crisis, a news report said yesterday.

Superbugs -- that is, antibiotic-resistant bacteria -- have been found in a number of public hospitals in the territory since the 2003 SARS outbreak which killed 299 people and infected 800.

Microbiologist Ho Pak-leung of the University of Hong Kong told the South China Morning Post that in 2003 doctors had used second-line antibiotics as a first defense to shorten hospital stays.

As a result, bacteria were being found in hospitals which could not be killed by carbapenem, the strongest type of antibiotic. There were more than 100 cases in one hospital alone, Ho said.

Patients hit by the superbugs had to be treated using methods such as surgery or the use of drugs which are still on clinical trial.

A program has been launched in Hong Kong's Queen Mary Hospital to try to cut back the use of strong antibiotics to reduce the risk of superbugs spreading.

Use of carbapenem rose by more than 70 per cent in 2003 from 2001, the newspaper said.

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