Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How To Save a Life... Or Not

It's the microbial invasion!!!
For some time, there has been talk about how antibiotics could no longer be a viable method of preventing infection. In the article, Analysis: Antibiotic Apocalype, the author, James Gallaghar, starts off by stating:

"A terrible future could be on the horizon, a future which rips one of the greatest tools of medicine out of the hands of doctors."

Can't you imagine Morgan Freeman saying that in the beginning of a sci-fi film? But in all seriousness, it's really hard to imagine a world in which a common cold could kill you. Not that it can't already. If the cold is left untreated, your immune system is weak and the environmental conditions are less than ideal, then yes, a cold could really kill you. But in many parts of the world, aside from third-world countries, it is rather easy to obtain antibiotics to cure the cold. And to boot, if the common cold could kill you, then what about other things like surgeries or births or anything that exposes the insides to the outsides? The bacteria could really have a hayday.

So, why didn't we do anything about it? Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin, already warned us about microbial resistance ages ago, during his Noble Prize speech:

"It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them, and the same thing has occasionally happened in the body. The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is a danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug, make them resistant."

Clearly, this is a difficult task to take on. If we increase the amount of antibiotics that are used, we could easily kill not only ourselves, but empower the bacteria to be immune to even higher doses of the antibiotic.

So, what to do? Well, the article doesn't provide much insight into what research is being conducted to trying and overcome this problem. So much for preventative measures.

I know that this post just made you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but on a brighter note, this could be a really interesting research topic if there is not a lot of work being done on it. And I'm sure that a lot of drug companies could pay boatloads of money for this research to be done, if it isn't already going on.

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