Superbugs: How Does This Happen?

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.

15 thoughts on “Superbugs: How Does This Happen?

  1. A lot of issues here nurse Packer. ha

    I recall that many people are treated with antibiotics while they suffer from viral infections. Which is contraindicated but which doctors dole out to simply cut the time necessary to properly communicate with the patient?

    Is that still true?

    And now people watch ads from drug companies and go to the clinic to inform the doctor of what they ‘really need’! ha

    Nice essay.

    1. Yes many doctors give prescriptions because they want to avoid the fury that exists when one goes to the doctor, pays a fair amount for the visit, and will be angry they don’t need anything. Physicians I know will make a parent wait for a simple earache before giving an antibiotic because they found most are viral. Not sure if it is a lack of communication but I do know sometimes it is to avoid getting chewed out.

      Yes the ads, oh the wonderful drug ads. Why bother giving out prescribing licences if people know from a 30 second clip what they need. Just sell it on the Internet don’t bother with the hundreds of thousands of dollars for college to learn how to diagnose properly.

      The blame is abundant that is for sure!

  2. I read about this on the bbc, I think. And at that time they said the people who were carrying this “whatever” were folks who had gone to India and Pakistan for plastic surgery and picked it up from hospitals there!

    So another moral to this story is… keep the face God gave you!

    1. Goes to show another great affect of the failing medical system in the U.S. It isn’t just cosmetic surgeries even medically necessary that are cheaper than a co-pay and deductible here. They also are importing nurses from India for the “shortage” yet grad nurses cannot get jobs. You can replace one U.S. Nurse with three Indian nurses for the same price from what I was told at my former non-profit hospital I worked at.

    2. Which makes me think of a tea party rant a fellow student went on about the cost of nurses and how healthcare reform would cause the profession to be cheapened saying something along the lines that an expensive nurse compared to the UK and other places made them better because govt didn’t dictate their cost. His surprise that they import them as it is now just so they can pay less to guest workers. Oh yes free market Capitalism at its best oh wait that’s right we traded that in for Corporatism long ago.

  3. another trope

    Thanks for the info. Science has brought us great improvements in our life, but there are some serious other-side-of-coin’s. We are dealing with forces and feedback loops we cannot even begin to fanthom.

    It reminds me of an interview some time ago I heard on the radio with this guy who was involved with creating biodegradable plastic that would grow just like potatoes. The interview asked him what would happen if the genetics of this jumped the fence and got into the regular vegetation. The guy paused and then said, “ah, that would be a bad thing. That’s why we keep them in a very controlled environment.”

    1. Unfortunately science has been sold to the highest bidder and we don’t have “controlled environments” as evidenced by outbreaks of hemorrhagic plague outbreaks near labs and killer bees. Pandora needs her box back now that we’ve opened it, damage control and risk management is what we’ve been reduced to in many instances. There are no easy answers but you have to keep trying.

      1. another trope

        Yeah. But you have to admit that CERN’s Super Hadron Collider is pretty darn cool.

        (well, not if it unleashes a black hole or something)

        Came across this video “Large Hadron Rap,” made by CERN employee Katherine McAlpine about the facility. Yes a rap song. Who said scientists can’t get down.

  4. ~flowerchild~

    Your essay gives the perfect opportunity to promote a program launched last year here in my state of Michigan. It’s called the Yellow Jug Old Drugs program and its main purpose is to keep the trace amounts of different drugs (non-controlled only), including anti-biotics, out of the water supply by giving people a way to dispose of their old drugs other than flushing them down the toilet or tossing them into the trash.

    A .pdf that explains it…

    Click to access nrstatewide.pdf

    and another…

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if a program like this could go nation-wide?

    1. another trope

      This comment got caught up and asked me to approve it – maybe because it had more than one link in it. I will see if I can fix that so people can post more than one link without approval me, the administrator. Updated: Now people can put up to 4 links in a post and have posted right away.

    1. That’s great! If we can increase the number even more things would be a lot better, less colds and flu which would mean less hospitalizations for things like pneumonia. The kids are the hard part, I tell my daughter all the time to stop biting her nails. I was reading how the HPV lives under the nails and those who bite their nails have a higher rate of warts. Gross!

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