Researchers are warning that Superbugs, antibiotic resistant bacteria, are becoming a global threat that might soon reach epidemic proportions.
For the past 70 years, antibiotics have helped fight off bacterial diseases, and are credited for helping people live longer, healthier lives. But the era of antibiotics may soon be over, as new antibiotic resistant Superbugs are learning to outmaneuver even the most potent antibiotic medications.
In an article from Bloomberg, a growing number of medical professionals are warning that an unstoppable epidemic of Superbugs might soon spread chaos throughout the world. The concern stems from a growing number of antibiotic resistant diseases that are making even fairly common conditions much harder to treat.
How Big is the Problem?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the problem is very serious. In fact, they warn that a new post-antibiotic era will make even small ailments a potential death sentence. At a medical meeting in March, WHO director General Margaret Chan warned that “Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”
Are Hospitals a Breeding Ground for these Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria?
In a recent study published by the American Journal of Infection Control, researchers found that most of these superbugs were capable of surviving on surfaces for prolonged periods of time. In fact, almost half of all the hospital rooms tested in the study were contaminated with the drug-resistant superbug Acinetobacter baumannii. In another study by the Archives of Internal Medicine, it was estimated that some 48,000 people a year are infected and die after acquiring one of these antibiotic resistant bacteria at a hospital.
The problem is rapidly spreading outside of hospitals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is estimated to have killed more people than the AIDS Virus. MRSA is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to a large number of antibiotics. MRSA was once only associated with medical procedures, or prolonged hospital stays, but is increasingly being found in other places including packaged meat in grocery stores.
Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Iowa found High Levels of MRSA Bacteria in Retail Meat Products. In fact, nearly 7 percent of the packaged pork they studied contained MRSA.
In a 2010 study from the CDC, a shocking amount of antibiotic resistant bacteria was found in grocery store meats. From half of all ground turkey, which carried Antibiotic Resistant E. coli to half of all packaged pork chops that were contaminated with multi-drug resistant salmonella, the study showed an alarming trend in how these bacteria’s are being spread.
NDM-1 – Germ-altering genes. A new Threat on the Horizon
A large area of concern is the rise of germ-altering genes like New Delhi metallo-beta- lactamase-1 (NDM-1). NDM-1 is an enzyme that makes bacteria resistant to a large number of antibiotics. Scientists believe that the gene may have started in India, but in only a few short years has already spread throughout the world. NDM-1 has been documented in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Japan and least 40 other countries.
NDM-1 is a quick mutating bacteria that has turned into antibiotic resistant killer. Researchers say that bacteria mutated with NDM-1 has as many as nine different ways to overcome even the world’s most powerful antibiotics.
The fight against drug resistant bacteria
The prospects for turning this situation around are pretty bleak. Pharmaceutical companies have very little incentive to produce these medications and have largely abandoned antibiotic research.
The rampant overuse of antibiotic medications often renders these drugs ineffective before the pharmaceutical company can recoup their initial R&D investments. This has created an ,atmosphere were most pharmaceutical companies have all but abandoned antibiotic research, in lieu of more profitable drugs like cholesterol lowering medications and antidepressants.