Today’s demonstration of the real problem of drug resistant infections comes from the U.K. where gonorrhoea is the drug resistant infection of the day (H/T Nature News). While gonorrhoea has always been a very adaptive bug, requiring changing antibiotics from time to time, but there are presently no new antibiotics on the horizon.
This doesn’t mean there are alternative treatments. However, instead of a single dose treatment, it would involve several, and that poses a public health problem. Given the stigma of sexually transmitted diseases, the easier and faster it is to treat them, the more likely people will be successfully treated. Should treatment rates decline, resistance rates will increase, as partial treatment can be even worse than no treatment. Giving the bug a little bit of the treatment helps build up resistance rather than knock it out.
Maybe health professionals will be able to keep up with the ever-evolving sexually transmitted diseases. Whether they do or not, the possibility of drug resistant STDs makes it all the more important for sexually active folks to get tested – regularly – and to play safely.
ScienceInsider notes that the Japanese government will once again review its research budgets as part of an effort to rein in government spending. The last review took place in November, and resulted in cuts to several research program that were mostly restored in the 2010 budget.
I commented last summer, shortly before the current ruling party took over, that the conflation between research funding and waste assumed by Japanese researchers seemed problematic. Part of my concern could be explained by the limited information available at the time (translated information, anyway), and part from an apparent unwillingness to separate the waste and fraud concerns from the big money attached to research. Whatever the problem was, it seems the message did not get through (subscription required) the first time. It might this second time.
“In a second round of hearings, a new task force will take a close look at government-funded organizations. Edano said that many of these agencies are staffed with former bureaucrats and have large personnel and indirect costs. “We are focusing not on scientific research itself but the indirect, wasteful spending that surrounds research activities,” he said.”
Now in the U.S., there are plenty of concerns about indirect costs, usually on the difficulty in having those costs fully covered by research grants. But I have no way of knowing if similar concerns exist in Japan, or if there are legitimate concerns about whether there are irregularities or inefficiencies in the administration of research in Japan that could be changed and save some money. Hopefully Japanese research and science advocates can manage the dance between wasteful spending and necessary research once again.