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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Drug-resistant bugs on rise globally: report

Many such drug distribution programs may be driving drug resistance and endangering the lives they are meant to save, according to the report from the Center for Global Development.

"Drug resistance is a natural occurrence, but careless practices in drug supply and use are hastening it unnecessarily," the Center's Rachel Nugent, who led the group writing the report, said in a statement.

Millions of children in the developing world die every year from drug-resistant strains of malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS and other diseases, the report found.

Since 2006 donors have spent more than $1.5 billion on specialized drugs to treat resistant bacteria and viruses, and this could worsen, the report cautions.

So-called "superbugs" such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureas, or MRSA, now cause more than 50 percent of staph infections in U.S. hospitals.

Bacteria and viruses begin to evolve resistance to drugs almost as soon as they first encounter them. If drug treatment leaves even one microbe alive, it will reproduce and whatever genetic attributes helped it survive will be multiplied in the next generation.

Last week, experts told a Congressional panel that U.S. regulators need to provide a clear path for drug companies to develop new antibiotics and should consider offering financial incentives.

The Center's report looks for even broader action, urging WHO to lead others, including pharmaceutical companies, governments, philanthropies that buy and distribute medicines, hospitals, healthcare providers, pharmacies and patients.

The report finds clear links between increased drug availability and resistance. For instance, in countries with the highest use of antibiotics, 75 to 90 percent of Streptococcus pneumoniae strains are drug-resistant, it found.

Poor quality drugs, counterfeit drugs, incomplete use of drugs and other factors all contribute to the problem, the report found. And this problem will worsen as drug access programs succeed, it cautions.

"The number of people being treated for HIV/AIDS, for example, increased 10-fold between 2002 and 2007; there was an 8-fold rise in deliveries of (drugs) for malaria treatment between 2005 and 2006, and the Stop TB Partnership's Global Drug Facility has expanded access to drugs for TB patients, offering nearly 14 million patient treatments in 93 countries since 2001," the report reads.

"While increased access to necessary drugs is clearly desirable, it brings challenges in preserving the efficacy of these drugs and ensuring they are used appropriately."

For instance, in 2008, an estimated 440,000 cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis emerged.
The Center for Global Development, an independent, nonprofit group, specializes in research on global poverty and inequality.
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Japanese ship, officers arrive in Cambodia on medical aid mission+

PHNOM PENH, Japanese medical officers arrived in the Cambodian port city of Sihanoukville on Tuesday aboard a Japanese maritime Self-Defense Force transport ship on the second leg of a two-nation mission to participate in a U.S. Navy-led medical aid program in Asia.

While in Cambodia, they will take part in medical aid activities for about two weeks under former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's "Fraternity Boat" initiative.

The 8,900-ton MSDF transport ship Kunisaki, with roughly 200 crew members on board, arrived together with the U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy on Tuesday morning, an official of the Japanese Embassy in Cambodia said.

The embassy said doctors and Japanese Self-Defense Forces personnel will conduct medical and cultural activities with U.S. Navy personnel and nongovernmental groups as part of this year's Pacific Partnership program.

Prior to its mission in Cambodia, the Kunisaki took part in the Pacific Partnership program in Vietnam.

The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh said the Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors aimed at strengthening regional partnerships and increasing navy-to-navy contact with host and partner nations, U.S. interagency groups, and international humanitarian and relief organizations.

Pacific Partnership 2010 brings together military medical and engineering professionals from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, and Britain, according to U.S. Embassy officials.


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60,000 protest against Cambodia land grab

The United Nations' human rights office in Cambodia has condemned a government ruling that banned a peaceful march by people at risk of losing their land.

Early on Tuesday, dozens of armed riot police blocked several hundred representatives from delivering a petition to the home of the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen.

Sixty thousand villagers whose land is under threat across the country signed the petition, which calls on Hun Sen to help them.

Instead, the villagers were forced to hand over the petition to officials from Hun Sen's cabinet at a nearby park.

Land-grabbing is arguably Cambodia's most pressing problem, but a weak judiciary has proven no match for powerful interests behind the scourge.

The municipality banned the planned march late on Monday, but did not give a reason for doing so.

The United Nations' local human rights office described the ban as "regrettable", adding that it was given without reason or justification - and therefore contrary to the new law regulating demonstrations.
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