When microbes innovate faster than humans do

CNN is reporting that  methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is afflicting a number of high school students in the U.S.  One student has died from an infection apparently contracted at school, while another 15 or so students in two states have tested positive.

This is getting press in part because of a report out in JAMA that the rate of infection from MRSA around the U.S. could be twice as high as previously thought, with a mortality rate of almost 20%.  (Here is the paper on PubMed: "Invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections in the United States".)  MRSA was first observed in the U.S. only in 1981.  Thus over only about 25 years we have produced a bug, through profligate use of antibiotics and poor sanitation, that may be a bigger killer than even HIV.

This while NIH funding has more than doubled, where most of that money has gone to established investigators (See my post, "The Death of Innovation, or How the NIH is Undermining Its Future") doing whatever it is they do that doesn't result in new antibiotics.  Where is the Health in NIH?

I heard yesterday via the grapevine that an NIH review panel failed to award any of 19 worthy new grants to younger investigators because all the money in the program is sopped up by existing grants.  You could argue that we should just increase the NIH budget, to which I would be sympathetic, but it is by no means clear that the present funding is well-spent.