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PNEUMONIA CASES LINKED TO `TOUGH' BACTERIA ARE RISING

Pneumonia cases caused by bacteria resistant to drug treatment are increasing but do not appear to be causing more deaths, according to two separate studies in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

News that the rate of such cases is rising comes from a team of researchers in Atlanta, who studied 431 pneumonia cases caused by streptococcal bacteria between January and October of last year.A research team led by Dr. Jo Hofmann of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a range of drugs are now less effective for treating pneumonia in children and adults because the bacteria have adapted to the treatment.

It said white people were more likely to develop drug-resistance than blacks, perhaps because whites were more likely to misuse antibiotics.

The researchers found that 25 percent of the cases studied were resistant to penicillin, 26 percent were not inhibited by a combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole, 15 percent were resistant to erythromycin and 9 percent resistant to cefotaxime.

But a second study in the journal found the mortality rate from pneumonia "appears to be the same whether infections are caused by (drug) sensitive strains or resistant strains."

The 10-year study led by Dr. Roman Pallares of the Hospital de Bell-vitge in Barcelona, Spain, initially found that 38 percent of patients with severe pneumonia resistant to penicillin died, compared with 24 percent of the people whose infection responded to the penicillin.