Of Microbes and Men - And MRSA: How the Administration's Public Health Policy Fosters Drug Resistant Microbes

Posted: 27 Dec 2007 Last revised: 31 Jan 2008

See all articles by Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Barbara Pfeffer Billauer

Institute of World Politics; International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto; Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc.

Date Written: January 26, 2008


Recent events have, once again, catapulted microbes into the forefront of media crisis-reporting. No sooner than the wandering TB-carrier evading the CDC's dragnet fades from our newspapers, (along with the sudden emergence and disappearance of SARS, the threat from Saddam's smallpox, and the billion dollar initiative against H5N1 - Avian flu - advertised as the greatest plague since the pandemic of 1918) - does a new scourge arise. This article posits that the sudden emergence of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) as a a political, press, and conference issue diverts attention from fundamental, but less dramatic health and health care problems of our nation.

Antibiotic-resistant microbes are not new . Nor is the rapid time for developing resistance. Hand washing, the venerable procedure promised to reduce the incidence, frequency and number of organisms capable of surviving our most potent antibacterials - isn't a novel solution either. It hasn't done away with the problem in the past, and we shouldn't rely on it now. Other putative solutions proffered by pundits and politicians will only aggravate the problem, or at best be inconsequential. Producing new antibiotics to cure the resistant bugs, as some suggest, will only compound the problem, while reporting new cases will provide more, but essentially useless information, but will clog the information cascade, obscuring more important data.

This paper reviews some relevant history and biology, details the fallacies of currently promoted methods of addressing drug resistance, and discusses secular trends and government policy which exacerbate the problem. In addition, a seminal event that triggered the recent spate of MRSA-associated mortality is proposed and examined so repetition of events under human control can be avoided.

A follow up article will suggest methods for curtailing community and hospital transmission based on fundamental principles of industrial hygiene.

Keywords: microbial drug resistance, antibiotic resistance, MRSA, methicillin resistant staphloccus, community spread, transmission, drug resistant microbes

JEL Classification: H51, I12, I18, K32, O31, O38, J28, O21, I10

Suggested Citation

Billauer, Barbara P., Of Microbes and Men - And MRSA: How the Administration's Public Health Policy Fosters Drug Resistant Microbes (January 26, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1078455 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1078455

Barbara P. Billauer (Contact Author)

Institute of World Politics ( email )

1521 16th St NW,
Washington, DC
United States
+1 202-462-2101 (Phone)

International Program in Bioethics, U. of Porto ( email )

Rua Dr. Roberto Frias
4200-464 Porto

Foundation for Law and Science Centers, Inc. ( email )

1020 16th Street NW
Suite LL1
Washington, DC 20036
United States
972 54 344 6055 (Phone)

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