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“Korea’s Infection Rate of Super Bacteria reached an alarming level”

“Korea’s Infection Rate of Super Bacteria reached an alarming level”

Posted March. 28, 2005 23:05,   


On November 26, 2004, about 250 students were infected with dysentery after eating their school lunch at Gyohyeon Elementary School in Chungju City, Chungbuk Province.

Hospital administered a “third-generation cephalosporin antibiotic” on the students, but strangely enough, it didn’t work. The hospital immediately gave another antibiotic, ciprofloxacin, to the students and only managed to treat the dysentery.

The National Public Health Research Institute tested the resistant genes of 267 AIDS patients who didn’t receive treatments and of the 45 AIDS patient who received medication over six months but failed to treat the illness (AIDS) between 1999 to 2004.

According to the test results, the resistance rate of those with no treatment record was a mere five percent, while those who failed treatments had a 71 percent resistance rate.

The medical community warned that Korean society has an alarming level of infection rate of resistant bacteria, the so-called “super-bacteria,” which is untreatable with antibiotics.

On March 28, a professor of the diagnosis and examination department of the Asan Medical Center (AMC) in Seoul, Kim Mi-na, warned of the danger of staphylococcus aureus and streptococcus pneumoniae, which are resistant to a third-generation antibiotic, vancomycin.

Vancomycin is a leading third-generation antibiotic, following its relatives penicillin (first-generation) and methicillin (second-generation), and is the last line of defense against streptococcus pneumoniae.

Vancomycin is the ultimate medicine for staphylococcus aureus, which causes skin infection, endocarditis, arthritis, and various kinds of blood poisonings, and for enterococcus, which arouses infections by cuts, and for streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia.

Without vancomycin, these diseases can’t be controlled.

The prevalence rate of vancomycin-resistant enterococcus was only one percent in 1996, but steadily increased to over 20 percent in 2000.

Professor Kim said that although the outbreak rate of vancomycin-resistant enterococcus was very low, it could cause a great disaster unless another medicine was invented.

In particular, Korea has one of the highest rates of antibiotic resistance in the world. Korea’s infection rate of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus is 66 percent, two times higher than that of the U.S.

Korea has also the highest resistant rate (73%) of streptococcus pneumoniae against second-generation antibiotic among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries.

Experts indicate that the overuse of antibiotics is the biggest factor of increasing antibiotic resistance of many bacteria. Bacteria frequently develop its resistance after being exposed to antibiotics.

Especially, it was found out that the overuse of antibiotics continued even after the practice of separation of work between doctor and pharmacists in 2001.

According to the survey on the actual condition of antibiotic use by the National Health Insurance Corporation and the Korea Food &Drug Administration last December, 67 percent of the doctors replied that administering an antibiotic was not very helpful in relieving a patient’s cold and that 66 percent of the doctors answered, “Nevertheless, antibiotics were excessively prescribed.”

The Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention is currently working to arrange a countermeasure while holding a “Seminar on actual condition of resistant bacteria against domestic antibiotics and on the national observation and control plan” on March 29.

TK Sohn sohn@donga.com