Monday, March 20, 2017

The Sound of a War Cry

The time to address the threatening reality of increased antibiotic resistance in our era arrived a long time ago. The time became signified with the increased prevalence of disease sweeping around the world, knocking out vulnerable children and strong athletes alike. The need to address antibiotic resistance became shouted from the roof tops as healthy people began to drop like flies to infections cured so easily a mere twenty years ago. The time arrived with warning signs flashing bright enough for thousands upon thousands to see. However, thousands upon thousands continue to look the other way. With neglectance continuing in our society, the window of action dwindles with greater rapidity. Without working quickly, bacteria will continue to evolve and build further armor that shields them from the wrath of our “powerful” antibiotics. However, the antibiotics we continue to depend on are failing us. According to Nicholas Bagley in his article “We Will Miss Antibiotics When They’re Gone,” staying one step ahead of the numerous and adaptive bacteria “will require ingenuity, money and radical change.” Which means, and I dare say it, that we need to stop pushing the problem of resistance onto future generations and fight with all of our might now.

Major pharmaceutical companies satisfy their pockets by placing higher emphasis on drugs that will garner a higher profit--leaving antibiotic development largely ignored. Without new antibiotics, doctors around the world continue to prescribe antibiotics which no longer possess the effectiveness necessary to eradicate strong-- or even mild-- infections. As a result, the danger looming within hospitals spikes in severity as antibiotic-resistant infections spreads through hospital corridors. Resistant infections within hospitals not only result in a longer and more expensive stay but “common surgeries would start looking like Russian roulette.” In addition, the overuse of old antibiotics only continues to expose bacteria to the same stimulus, allowing select strains to develop resistance and spread it among millions of other colonies. As more colonies receive resistant genes from their neighbors, the amount of effective medicine diminishes even further. The limited amount of effective antibiotics causes the larger numbers of deaths prevalent in recent years. Quick and merciless bacteria acted as a grim reaper to a woman killed by “the bacteria that were resistant to every antibiotic doctors could throw at them,” and will continue to play a similar role in the lives of thousands (if not millions) more.

Members within society need to weigh the outcomes of continuing to pay attention to the blatant warning signs. Does the extra money pharmaceutical companies gain from neglecting antibiotic development or the promise of a quick fix with antibiotics truly outweigh the detrimental effects of our population slowly dying off to bacterial strains that were once controllable? The time for battle arrived with the advent of antibiotic resistance in recent years; and we possess no other option but to fight.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Watch What You Eat

The doors within doctor’s offices revolve weekly, providing new patients by the minute. Each patient possesses unique symptoms that provide clues on the nasty infection or virus thriving inside. However, doctors around the world continue to notice that one type of pain and discomfort continues to spike among female patients in recent years: the urinary tract infection. In fact, “in the United States, one out of every nine women has a UTI every year,” according to the article “How Your Chicken Dinner is Creating a Drug-Resistant Superbug” by Maryn McKenna. The price of dealing with highly painful UTIs hovers just above $1 billion per year, and it continues to skyrocket with the increasing prevalence in modern day society. To make matters worse, engaging in a quick and successful battle against these nasty bacterial strains continues to grow in difficulty. This difficulty increases due to certain strains becoming resistant to multiple antibiotics, causing thousands of women to suffer with prolonged illness as their doctors scramble to find the right medicine to eradicate the infection.

The question on the minds of thousands of scientists’ minds across the world revolves around what the possible cause could be that continues to trigger the enormous spike in UTIs. The answer remains highly controversial. On the one hand, some researches argue that a strong link persists between the meat we consume and the bacteria we then acquire. These researchers highlight the “close genetic matches between resistant E.coli from human patients and resistant strains found on chicken or turkey sold in supermarkets,” in order to make the argument that resistance could be spreading with every bite from our chicken dinners. While on the other hand, other researchers don’t agree as antibiotic resistance remains extremely common in our society therefore, “it isn’t surprising that genes carried by human E.coli are going to be similar to resistance genes in chicken E.coli.” However, after taking both arguments into account, I believe that a strong link exists between the antibiotic treated meat we consume and the resistant bacterial strains which grow in frequency within our bodies. The fact remains that “80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States each year are given to livestock as ‘growth promoters’,” therefore large sums of antibiotics flow through the bloodstreams of these animals, allowing millions of bacterial cells in their bodies to adapt and eventually become resistant. Some of these resistant bacterial cells still thrive in the meat of the animals when we put them in our mouths while enjoying a dinner with our families. After dinner, these cells travel through our bodies, passing on the resistant gene to other cells within our bodies. Then, when our bodies become infected, they become far harder to cure. Although many farmers continue to deny the link between animals and humans in transferring resistant cells in an attempt to keep their meat output as high as possible, I believe the link remains quite obvious when observing the patterns in doctor’s offices. For instance, the fact remains that there has been a plethora of patients with UTIs who haven’t been recently exposed to medical centers in which antibiotics remain highly overused. Without the exposure to antibiotic overuse, why do the UTIs display high resistance to antibiotic treatment? The common factor observed by many doctors remains recent exposure to meat grown with the aid of antibiotics. Therefore, to fight the pain growing among millions, the use of antibiotics in agriculture needs to become severely regulated.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Why Thousands Continue to Ignore the Ticking Time Bomb

Most, if not all, of us visited the doctor at some point in our lives, griping about the pain exploding in our ears, throat, sinuses, etc. Almost immediately, the doctor prescribed each of us antibiotics to eliminate our pain as soon as possible. When we visit the doctor, millions of people around the world depend on the large variety of antibiotics available to eliminate our suffering. The beginning of the pain-reducing miracle drugs occurred in the year of 1928 with the discovery of penicillin, thus beginning the antibiotic age. When someone became plagued with an infection, hundreds of doors remained available to provide a relatively quick and easy escape from their problems. The eradication of these problems, being infections, occurred through the use of amoxicillin, doxycycline, cephalexin, penicillin, and many other different antibiotics which offered pathways out of the infection. However, some doorways began to be used too much. The hinges rusted, the wood began to splinter, and handles began to break making it more difficult to take that route. As a result, the usage of different doors began with the implementation of different medicinal treatments. Then, the new pathways deteriorated as well. Why did the possible routes of eradication close down so swiftly? The answer remains antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance spreads through natural selection and bacteria-to-bacteria contact each time a person implements antibiotics within their bodies. And, this antibiotic resistance closes down the doors of possibilities one by one. If the spread of antibiotic resistance continues to at its current rate, each door will continue to shut until someone with a body plagued with infection will remain trapped, without a route of escape back to their healthy self. So, why does antibiotic resistance continue to be pushed to the backburner? In the article “The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis” author C. Lee Ventola explores the reasons for the lack of a strong fight against the advent of antibiotic resistance.

Pharmaceutical companies acted as the major producers of new antibiotics in the past, however the rate of new creations continues to dwindle. The decline in production occurs due to the economic burden of developing antibiotics and the increased regulatory obstacles. Due to these issues, “of the 18 largest pharmaceutical companies, 15 abandoned the antibiotic field.” Companies remain unmotivated to develop antibiotics because they do not provide grand economic benefits with the small window of usage and their overall unprofitability. The contrast in profitability between antibiotics and specialized drugs remains extremely stark as “the net present value of a new antibiotic is only about $50 million, compared to approximately $1 billion for a drug used to treat a neuromuscular disease.” In addition to the low income generated for the creation of antibiotics, in recent years, the number of antibiotic approvals depreciated greatly due to new trial requirements and regulatory and licensing laws. Thus, even if a company tackles the challenge of discovering a new antibiotic, their expensive design remains susceptible to brutal rejection. Even with the newly implemented regulatory maze and the daunting economic burdens of undertaking the development of new antibiotics, the fact remains that if we proceed to push developing weapons to combat the bacterial strains armed with resistance to the backburner, there will barely be a fight. The war will arrive as armies of resistant bacteria infest our bodies and, without a successful method of eradication, humans will brutally lose. The time has come to build up our arsenal of antibiotics, “the CDC declared in 2013 that the human race is now in the ‘post-antibiotic era,” along with the World Health Organization warning “that the antibiotic resistance crisis is becoming dire.” Dillydalling cannot continue as the time to fight arrived years ago.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Breaking News: Mass Murderer Under the Name "Ignorance" Expected to Strike

The nine year old boy gazes with a smile towards the window as the trees sway in the breeze, the children jump rope on the street, and the life monitor beeps loudly beside his head. The harsh hospital lights above him illuminate the deep bags underneath his eyes that grow with every minute. The infection permeates throughout his veins, continuously sucking the life out of the young boy. The boy focuses his gaze on the door his parents departed from a short while ago to retrieve his favorite sandwich from the nearby deli, knowing that he will draw his last breath before the sun drifts below the horizon. A cure remains nonexistent for him, as he suffers from a severe infection initiated by NDM-1, which no antibiotic can eradicate. Left without a solution, the boy’s life will be shortened to a measly nine years. In the article “When Superbugs Attack: Antibiotic-resistant NDM-1 Is Undermining India’s Medical Sector,” author Sonia Shah tackles the growing prevalence of NDM-1, an extremely dangerous bacterial strain, as well as expostulating the greater actions necessary to fight off antibiotic resistance in the extremely interconnected world.

The prevalence of NDM-1 bacterial strains continues to spike in India, causing concern as NDM-1 remains amongst the most antibiotic resistant of all bacterial strains. In fact, NDM-1 holds responsibility for the unusually efficient transfer of extremely high drug-resistance to “thirteen percent” of bacterial infections “making treatment options exceedingly limited.” However, no one seems to be taking definitive actions to stunt the progression of antibiotic resistance. In fact, “the drug industry has actively avoided developing new antibiotics” as a “business decision,” due to the fact that such antibiotics remain extremely costly to cultivate and eventually grow antiquated. Meanwhile, Indian governments continue to leave the unregulated antibiotic use in the country untouched. While politicians and scientists drag their feet in taking a stand against the spread of antibiotic resistance, people continue to die around the world.

No, the problem of extremely resistant bacteria strains does not simply exist in the country of India. However, NDM-1’s birthplace, and largest distributer, continues to be India. India receives millions of visitors, allowing NDM-1 to infiltrate the bodies of hundreds of thousands of these visitors, who unknowingly smuggle the lethal strain back to their countries. Therefore, no country possesses immunity as “NDM-1 infections already turned up in more than 35 countries last year.” NDM-1 only exemplifies one of the many bacterial strains growing with greater resistance to the very antibiotics we rely on to save millions of lives. Without a deliberate attack on antibiotic resistance, the amount lost to these strains of bacterial will continue to surmount as even “in the United States alone, fighting drug-resistant infections cost up to 8 million additional patient hospital days and up to $34 billion every year.” Losses will continue to surmount in the modern day world which remains highly interconnected, with expansive land and sea trade routes, efficient transportation systems, millions of places to come into contact with nasty bacteria. Neglecting the growing prevalence of antibiotic resistant strains such as NDM-1 only digs the fate of humankind a deeper grave. Without action, none of our antibiotics will provide solace from infections like that of the nine year old boy, and there won’t be anyone left to make us our favorite sandwich either.