Vital Nature: Superbugs

1028452_syringes_and_vialThe issue of drug resistance is as old as antibiotics themselves, as it occurs when drugs kill susceptible infections, leaving resilient strains behind. The survivors reproduce and re-infest, and pose as a threat over time to become untreatable with frontline medicines. Microbes have been evolving with increasing resistance to the most powerful, last-resort, types of frontline antibiotics. The depleting success of one of the greatest tools in modern medicine, antibiotics, could soon be a phenomenal cause of death worldwide. Antibiotic resistance has morphed into one of the world’s most pressing public health issues, the source of which is often found in a place of refuge for the ill, the hospital.

Drug-resistant germs called carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriacae, or CRE, are on the rise, and they are causing more patients to get infections that, in some cases, are impossible to treat with antibiotics. CRE germs currently kill 1 in 2 patients with bloodstream infections from them, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The superbug tends to strike those with compromised immune systems. Those affected are typically found within hospitals and nursing homes than in general communities, and CRE doesn’t spread as easily from person to person as most bacteria, such as strep throat.

Antibiotics are used to fend off bacterial infections including bronchitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, strep throat and pink eye. Where does one go to purchase antibiotics? They go to their doctor seeking a prescription. The facility acts as a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses alike, and is thus an idea place for the subjects to latch onto an unsuspecting host. The bugs are indubitably the most hazardous threat found in hospitals. Costi Sifri, an infection disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at the University of Virginia Health System declared, “Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like anything is slowing their spread.”

Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, described an “apocalyptic scenario” where people going in for relatively mundane procedures and operations in 20 years’ time end up perishing “because we have run out of antibiotics.” Sure, news of more resilient bacteria is not the rise of the apocalypse, but it should cause you to be more wary and cautious.

Having to bet off luck and chance that you don’t breathe the wrong air is becoming an all too current stress on humanity. Imagine yourself in the hospital, waiting in line to pick up your prescription. Someone in front of you sneezes, then walks forward filling the gap in the line. You hesitate for a moment, but proceed, and wind up inhaling just 8 of the 40,000 active pulmonary tuberculosis droplets they release with a single sneeze. The inhalation of less than 10 of those bacteria may cause an infection. The threat of catching an infection such tuberculosis has always been this way, but the rise of drug-resistant germs is prevalent.