Just today news reports confirm a new strain of antibiotic resistant bacteria that has been detected in three individuals living in the United States. The speculation as to the reason this happens ranges from people saving antibiotics and self treating, not finishing antibiotics so resistant strains develop, over-use of antibiotics for viruses which they are ineffective against, the food supply in the United States pumped full of antibiotics to prevent infection (these are the same antibiotics given to humans), and the conspiracy theories also abound including plans to control the population with as much success as bubonic plague in the Middle Ages and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918.
Now first I’d like to stress, before getting into the nitty gritty the intensely important need to wash your hands, often. Avoid antibacterial soaps too, they also help to create superbugs. Good old fashion soap and warm water, scrubbing in between your fingers and under your nails for 15-20 seconds is sufficient. We tell people to sing the ABC’s or Twinkle Little Star, any short song that lasts at least 15 seconds. You would be amazed the amount of bacteria present on fomites (inanimate objects that people touch and are a source of transmission of bacteria or viruses). Another problem is hand washing after using the bathroom, many of us wonder how anyone could leave the bathroom without washing their hands but you would be surprised. E. coli for instance is transmitted via the fecal-oral route and is a normal flora in the human large intestine, contaminated food is usually grown in contaminated water but you can also get it from touching a surface after someone else didn’t wash their hands and then you forgot to wash your hands and ate a sandwich. Also E. coli is the biggest culprit in urinary tract infections so females should wipe from front to back and be sure to shower daily (avoid baths you are truly swimming in bacteria). Now this bacteria is a hospital acquired bacteria (or nosocomial infection) so chances are you don’t have to worry about this affecting you unless you go to the hospital sometime soon. Back to the story at hand…
With the manipulation of ecology and biology at vast scales, it has been just a matter of time before we have had to deal with more health problems, microbes that were hidden by deep rain forests, ice, and potentially species we have been finding underwater, have been brought into our living spaces ready to attack a host who has never seen this type of bug. One special note about the place this bug has come from, India, is that they have assumed production of generic pharmaceuticals and the base ingredients that other companies buy to create their product much more than any other country. The pharmaceutical industry in India has boomed with little oversight from the FDA, something the current Congress has been working to change.
The effect on the environment and animals as well is telling, our waste treatment alone contains tons of dissolved pharmaceuticals that have been excreted from the human body and cannot be filtered out of drinking water or the ultimate waste product that is stored, thus creating huge vats of muck perfect for the production of drug resistant bacteria.
So now we have another superbug to add to the list, along with MRSA, VRSA, VRE, and others that have become basically resistant to everything we have to fight them. It was only a matter of time, we allowed the free-market to focus on profit and listened to the Economist over the Scientist. My hope is that I don’t become a carrier of one of these before I start working with HIV patients , it would preclude me from being able to do so since it is easy to spread from one patient to the next even with extra caution, and I’m a good hand washer.
For now, there isn’t much we can do, be sure to use your antibiotics as prescribed, don’t use them for colds or other viruses, and if you forget to finish them throw them away. Rainy day antibiotics are a bad idea, they get old and can increase your risk of allergic reaction as they age as well. If only we would start looking at alternatives to antibiotics, like bacteriophages that is an interesting area of scientific research that could yield great results and reduce the need for antibiotics by the ton.
Be sure to wash your hands and wash them often!
Also throw out the anti-bacterial crap that just adds to the problem.