Super Bugs: The Rise of Anti-biotic Resistant Bacteria
Infectious disease experts will tell you without hesitation that we live in frightening times. Ever since the discovery of penicillin back in 1942, the medical community has been operating under the assumption that modern medicine would continue to be one step ahead of the sinister micro-organisms that are all around us. However, the last ten years or so has provided us with numerous example that the optimism of earlier decades was unrealistic. Bacteria are evolving, and there is less and less that we can do to stop them.
Candida Auris is a yeast-like fungus that was first documented in a Japanese patient’s ear back in 2009. Since then, cases have appeared worldwide primarily in hospitals and nursing homes. Candida Auris is resistant to common anti-fungal medication and may be spread by the shed skin of the infected. The signs of infection are persistent fever, aches, and chills; symptoms that most of us would associate with the flu. However, candida infection can only be confirmed by laboratory testing. Perhaps the most dangerous thing about this superbug is the fact that it is usually found in places where you already have ill individuals. Unless caretakers are aware of the possible presence of candida and make an effort to test for it, treatment may not begin until it is too late.
When E. Coli stays in your gut, all is right with the world. When it’s found outside it’s normal environment, it can be deadly. E. Coli infection is characterized by nausea, vomiting, high fevers, and bloody diarrhea. Under normal circumstances, an E. Coli outbreak is something to be feared. However, when it’s not causing romaine lettuce shortages or nearly putting Chipotle out of business, it is evolving into an even more formidable superbug.
Columbia University recently documented a strain of this common bacteria with a mutation in gene MCR-1 that makes it resistant to even colistin; a potent and toxic antibiotic. Without effective antibiotics to fight it, nearly half of all infected patients died within two weeks.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus better known as MRSA has been a staple in the news as of late. MRSA is another superbug that preys on the already ill, as most cases are found in medical settings. It is spread through contact with infected wounds, a contaminated hand, or contaminated surfaces. To make matters more complicated, about a third of people carry staph bacteria on their person normally, and are completely asymptomatic. When staph gets into a cut however, you can get everything from an unsightly boil, to a flesh-eating infection.