Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

“Superbugs”- Good or Bad? Why?

Welcome back to the discussion on “superbugs” or what they actually are: antibiotic resistant bacteria. Now that we know a bit about them and antibiotics in general, the next question is are they good or bad? And why?

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This is superbug called MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) which can cause infection (Source: ABC News)

Out of the total biomass on earth there are more bacteria (50%) than there are animals (15%). Bacteria are everywhere around us including on our own bodies. Fun fact: 90% of the cells in our body are bacteria. Most of these bacteria are normally harmless to us though (no need to be worried).

But obviously there are some that do cause infections, diseases and even sometimes death (being worried about these ones). But overall there aren’t that many when compared to the total overall number of bacteria since there are so many.

In fact the rate of deaths caused by  bacteria has decreased substantially since 1900. The main reason being because of the discovery of antibiotics (other reasons include things like better hygiene).

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The impact of bacteria on death rates over the past century (Source: Microbiology lecture notes 1)

But now that more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics the amount of  infections/diseases/death causing bacteria is increasing. In 2014 these “superbugs” infected more than 2 million people worldwide and killed at least 23 thousand people according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These type of statistics are indicating that these antibiotic resistant bacteria could potentially cause a lot of damage to public health.

Each time an antibiotic is used as a treatment there is a risk that the antibiotic will attack a bacteria (within the population of infecting bacteria) that is resistant to it. This causes the infection to remain the same within the patient since the antibiotic cannot affect the bacteria. Now the resistant bacteria have the possibility to spread to other people, especially within places with high antibiotic usage such as hospitals.

Something that you might be asking yourself right now is why aren’t new antibiotics being made that can combat and fight these antibiotic resistant bacteria?

The answer being that it isn’t that simple to find new antibiotics. In fact since the 1970’s there has only been 3 new antibiotics found. This means that we have essentially been using the same antibiotics for about 40 years now. No wonder there’s a rise in resistance!

But why aren’t more being found? Well it seems that it is mainly due to it being harder to discover new antibiotics and also the workings of the pharmaceutical industry. These difficult have led to there being a lot of cost cutting, leading to lots of restructuring of budgets. Not having the money or the people to do the research makes it hard for new antibiotics to be discovered.

From all of this information the next and final  question to ask is what is being done now about these superbugs? This will be answered in the next and finally blog post. Stay tuned.

References:

  1. ECDC/EMEA Joint Group 2009, The bacterial challenge: time to react, retrieved 9th April 2016, http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/Publications/0909_TER_The_Bacterial_Challenge_Time_to_React.pdf
  2. ABC Health and Wellbeing staff 2015, Superbugs: What are they and how are the treated?, ABC News, retrieved 9th April 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-17/explainer-superbugs-and-the-solution/6552420
  3. Dr. Lambert Bräu, Microbiology Lecture 1 notes, Deakin University
  4. National Institutes of Health (U.S.) 2014, Stop the Spread of Superbugs, News in Health, retrieved 13th April 2016, https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/feb2014/feature1
  5. Pain, E 2011, A Pharma Industry in Crisis, Science, retrieved 13th April 2016, http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2011/12/pharma-industry-crisis

 

 

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2 comments on ““Superbugs”- Good or Bad? Why?

  1. demagi
    May 8, 2016

    I love this article! You have written this in a way that’s very engaging to the reader. I am currently enrolled in microbiology and I was able to learn some of these things from the unit as well. This post describes and highlights why people should not constantly take antibiotics. I think this article is very important to those who are not learning science. My friends, they take antibiotics even for a common cold. Whenever i try to tell them it could develop resistance or antibiotics do not have an effect on viral diseases, they don’t believe me. http://www.nps.org.au/medicines/infections-and-infestations/antibiotics/for-individuals/what-is-antibiotic-resistance This article gives more facts on antibiotic resistance and it’s effects.

    Like

  2. scientificblogsite
    May 8, 2016

    Great post raising awareness for a very real issue, the over prescription of antibiotics is something I’m very concerned with. Personally I find it harder to just get prescribed a generic painkiller than it is to get prescribed antibiotics, and I usually turn down any antibiotic prescriptions unless I’m truly ill. I found the pie chart used in this article really effective in showing just how many antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily for viral infections. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/05/03/1-in-3-antibiotics-prescribed-in-u-s-are-unnecessary-major-study-finds/).

    I also found this report presented by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy to be a great overall resource on antibiotic resistancee if you’d like to do any further reading, it really helped me further understand this topic.
    (https://cddep.org/sites/default/files/swa_2015_final.pdf)

    Like

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This entry was posted on May 8, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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