September 25, 1996

Antibiotic Sensitivity Testing for Infections in Developing Countries: Lacking the Basics

Author Affiliations

Kinshasa-Gombe, Zaire

JAMA. 1996;276(12):952-953. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540120030023

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To the Editor.  —In my experience internationally, I believe the United States could aid many people in the developing world by helping test antibiotic sensitivities of commonly occurring pathogens. Clinicians in developing countries often treat infected patients on a trial-and-error basis, which may be costly, time-consuming, and dangerous. It would be preferable if clinicians knew with reasonable certainty to which antibiotics specific organisms are susceptible. Clinicians ought to know for example, that 90% of gonorrhea isolates in their area are susceptible to tetracycline. This information would allow them to make a reasonably informed antibiotic choice. At present, most physicians in developing nations must consult guidelines based on US or European surveys. For gonorrhea, they are advised to use ceftriaxone, an impossible drug choice for destitute people in impoverished countries.The World Health Organization already operates a network of regional laboratories for testing Mycobacterium tuberculosis, including 4 regional laboratories in Africa.