Superbugs





Scientists and health care professionals are increasingly worried about so-called 'Superbugs' that are spreading around the globe.

While Superbugs are not new, we are seeing a continual increase in the number of reported cases and deaths due to these serious strains of bacteria.

There have been substantial decreases in the effectiveness of our antibiotics which are used to fight bacteria, partly due to overuse and abuse of these drugs, and partly because these bacteria continue to adapt and become even stronger and more resistant to antibiotics than before. (see Antibiotic resistance)

One of the newest strains; the NDM-1 bacteria is believed to have originated in India and most cases thus far have been in people who have had some form of medical treatment in India. This according to Arjun Srinivasan with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Dr. M. Lindsay Grayson, who is the director of infectious diseases at the University of Melbourne, is quoted as saying 'It's just a matter of time' until the gene spreads more widely from person to person. Grayson says the new gene NDM-1 is named for New Delhi.

Adaptable genes that attach themselves to common germs then become so-called 'Superbugs' and there are only a few drugs that have any effect on them. The fear is that as the genes continue to adapt, they will become completely resistant to every antibiotic that we currently have.

A few years ago, the CDC published a study saying that MRSA, (Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus), was killing more people than AIDS each year.

KPC organisms or ‘Carbapenam-resistant' germs have now been reported in over half the United States and these are very worrisome since we have fewer drugs to treat them than we do the MRSA or staph aureus strains.

Some people have had to be treated with one of the last drugs that is effective in treating the KPC’s. This particular drug called 'Polymixin’ is an older generation antibiotic that is known to be very damaging to the kidneys so it cannot be counted on for large-scale use.

For years we have overused antibiotics. We have lessened their effectiveness by running to the doctor every time we have a sniffle. Some say that Doctors have also contributed to the problem by over-prescribing them.

Now there are only a handful of these last-resort antibiotics that work against some of the known Superbugs. Since the pharmaceutical industry has not instituted a great of deal of new research and development for the much-needed next generation of antibiotics, we may be nearing what many see as the perfect storm for deadly bacteria where we will have no effective drugs to treat them – hence the increasing worry felt by many.

While there are more drugs that are still effective in treating MRSA, these drugs are also becoming less effective because the bacteria continues to adapt and become more resistant.

The threat is real and public health officials claim that sooner rather than later, these bugs will be able to survive all antibiotics that we currently have in our arsenal.

Learn more about Superbugs and their origin here: Understanding Evolution


Are you a healthcare professional who can comment on this?


More to come on Superbugs



Home