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Kidney-Damaging Drug Seen Attacking Spread of Superbugs

Doctors spurned colistin for decades because it damages kidneys. Now the drug is deemed “critically important” and in demand worldwide to thwart the most obstinate infections.

The 53-year-old medicine, also used as an additive in chicken feed, is back in favor as resistance to antibiotics escalates and doctors run out of weapons to fight conditions ranging from urinary tract infections to pneumonia.

“Drugs that we previously discarded because their toxicity was too high now don’t look so bad if the alternative is death,” said Lindsay Grayson, editor-in-chief of the sixth edition of the medical text Kucer’s The Use of Antibiotics.

The generation of antibiotics that led to colistin’s early demise is losing potency because of the global spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria, often called superbugs. A growing number of infections don’t respond to a class of last-resort medicines called carbapenems and the World Health Organization says there is a dearth of new treatments in development.
 
 

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