As from the beginning of a horror/zombie movie, scientists have positively identified a strain of E Coli bacteria which is resistant to the “last line of defense” antibiotics. Please read: A ‘slow catastrophe’ unfolds as the golden age of antibiotics comes to an end, Melissa Healy, LA Times, Science, July 11, 2016.
Ms. Healy and the LA Times did a wonderful job with this story. The Times science section impresses at times (get it….).
The devious little bacterium seems to have developed a new gene, “mcr-1”, which makes it resistant to colistin. Colistin is the “last line” drug given when other antibiotics are not effective. Now, for this particular bug, even that doesn’t work. It seems that the infection at issue in the case study was beaten off with a combination of other treatments. However, doctors and researchers are not overly optimistic about what this portends for the future of medicine. Some are downright pessimistic.
“It’s a slow catastrophe,” said Army Col. Emil Lesho, director of the Defense Department’s Multidrug-resistant Organism Repository and Surveillance Network.
The problem goes beyond treating infections. As bacterial resistance grows, Lesho said, “we’re all at risk of losing our access” to medical miracles we’ve come to take for granted: elective surgeries, joint replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapies. These treatments give bacteria an opportunity to hitch a ride on a catheter or an unwashed hand and invade an already vulnerable patient.
“It’s not apocalyptic until it is,” said Peter Pitts, president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and former associate commissioner of the FDA. “Shame on us if we wait till bodies are in the street.”
Whoa, apocalyptic? Bodies in the street! This story made me think of several things:
First, we’ve been being warned for years now, by experts, about our overuse of antibiotics. Drugs given to patients who don’t need them. Drugs given to our cows, hogs, and chickens. And, so on. Maybe it’s not to late to heed the warnings. I haven’t had an antibiotic since I can’t remember when. Since I lost the weight and started working out, I don’t find myself seeing the doctor much at all.
Second, medical science has a history of outmaneuvering the bugs. The Times story included this chart:
This isn’t the first time there’s been a gap between drugs. They’ll make a new one.
Third, the Times notes the high FDA regulatory costs of developing these new drugs. The drug companies prefer to concentrate on fields where the patient uses the medication for a lifetime. The return on the R&D (and regulatory compliance) isn’t worth the return for antibiotics. Another case of government getting in the way and potentially getting people killed. The author suggests the government might find some incentives (our taxes) to ease the process. Rather than more corporate welfare, I say get the state out-of-the-way. If the FDA had been around in 1928, we might still be waiting on basic penicillin.
Fourth thought – the government which makes it cost prohibitive to develop new miracle drugs is the very same government which is madly trying to bring as many “refugees”and other non-Westerners as possible into the country. Many of these folks, regardless of their intentions, carry diseases we haven’t had here in years. If they’re not going to curb the flow, maybe they could at the very least implement some better medical screenings.
Fifthly and finally, there is something you can do right now to circumvent the government, the scientists, and the culture. Get in shape. A healthy body does an unbelievably good job fighting off disease. Since I went “health nut” – and, yes, cigars are a component – I haven’t been sick once. It’s simple – drink water, sleep, exercise, and don’t eat as much and not as much junk. You can survive the apocalypse.
Odd little critters. BBC.
I’m not worried about these developments.We’re human beings. We can beat the bugs. We might even beat the government.