Posted on June 5, 2017

Image source: NBC News

Superbugs: Will We Win or Lose This Battle?

If scientists had made use of our knowledge of bacteria and viruses, they could have projected that it was only a matter of time before they evolved to be able to overcome the antibiotics that were created. These creatures have survived the millennia through their ability to adapt and it is this single aspect that may be our own undoing.

The discovery of antibiotics have saved countless lives, but as with many things that human beings do, the overuse of antibiotics as a remedy created a circumstance that catapulted bacteria into a state of change. This change has resulted in the ‘superbugs’ which are newer strains of bacteria that have the ability to supersede the effects of antibiotics.

 As per a CNBC article on this topic: “This is really a frightening situation,” Dr. Beth Bell of the CDC told CNBC’s “On The Money” in a recent interview, “and really one of the most serious infectious disease threats of our time.”   The article continues to say: “CDC data show superbugs cause infections in at least two million people in the U.S. each year, and kill 23,000. Barely a week ago, in a landmark meeting, the United Nations General Assembly voted to take a coordinated approach to antibiotic resistance as a global health crisis. By 2050, superbugs could kill 10 million people, according to the Review of Antimicrobial Resistance.

Dr. Bell oversees the infectious disease programs that monitor the status in this country and around the world and they are witnessing bacteria strains that cannot be controlled by standard antibiotics. This situation is a setup so that doctors will be unable to control such things as simple infections and can put many lives at risk. It is especially concerning for post-surgery and injury victims as antibiotics have played a critical role in keeping infection down and allowing the healing process to continue.

The problem has occurred in both overuse as well as ramped antibiotic use in livestock. In the CNBC article they stated: “The CDC says nearly one-third of all prescriptions for antibiotics are unneeded, or incorrectly prescribed by doctors, which is part of the problem. Bell told CNBC that “47 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions are given every year in the United States.” Dr. Bell indicated that the use of livestock antibiotics has been a ‘major driver’ for our current problem.

While some research is being done in the development of new antibiotics to combat these superbugs, the information from the National Institutes of Health states, “of the 18 largest pharmaceutical companies, 15 have abandoned the antibiotic field due to economic and regulatory obstacles.”

It appears that unless there is an incentive to encourage pharmaceutical companies to continue research for a new kind of antibiotics combined with the reduction of use of antibiotics on all realms, we may be facing a medical crisis on a global scale. Even if we ‘win’ through additional development, bacteria will always outwit us because they are eternally changing and adapting. This, therefore, must be an ongoing approach with the understanding that it is required for our own survival.