Hospitals have traditionally prescribed antibiotics to cure bacterial infections, but recently doctors have been hard-pressed to counter the rising numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, with the annual number of cases reaching 2 million and the annual number of deaths from the pathogens around 23,000. Specifically, the bacteria with the enzymes that shield them from the antibiotics are capable of disseminating that information to other bacteria. Finally, certain individuals can carry the super-bug without exhibiting symptoms, making them unwitting disease vectors. So the question is how did such super-bugs come into ascendance? The answer is we helped.
Thanks to our complacency and general ignorance on bacteria’s potential for change, the super-bugs were able to establish a foothold in hospitals. When antibiotics were first released, many proclaimed it the miracle of medicine and the end of infection. However, this viewpoint failed to show appreciation that even among bacteria adaptability differs between each bacterium. People assumed that antibiotics would vanquish all bacteria, but in reality, the drugs culled the weak and left the survivors to proliferate. The stresses placed on the bacteria gave rise to stronger and stronger strains, while the pharmaceutical companies, considering the antibiotics good enough for the current generation of bacteria, stopped their research. As a result, the bacteria have beaten us in the adaptability game, and now, doctors are trying to play catch-up against organisms that never stopped changing.
The one who is able to maintain change within a shorter amount of time has an advantage over those who stagnate. The bacterium, a humble animal devoid of even a nervous system, has managed to thwart our pharmaceutical defenses by taking advantage of our inaction.
Antibiotics Can’t Keep Up with ‘Nightmare” Superbugs – Centers For Disease Control and Prevention — NPR – October 22 2013 – Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2013/10/22/239247134/antibiotics-cant-keep-up-with-nightmare-superbugs