Monday, September 20, 2010

NDM-1, XF-73, India, Perceptions and the Lemming

Depending on who you listen to, this is what comes of giving antibiotics to livestock, and now we're gonna pay - or - researchers in the United Kingdom have come up with another way of dealing with bacteria that aren't killed by many antibiotics.

The antibiotic-resistant micro-critters are called Superbug in the news. (Yes, Superbug! Strange visitor from another continent, with powers and abilities beyond those of ordinary bugs. Superbug! Able to resist many antibiotics - and so on.)

Reading what some reporters and editors have to say, the Lemming learned that they assume "factory farms" are to blame. And India. 'Everybody knows' what those 'natives' are like? Surely not in this determinedly diverse age. Or maybe old mental habits are hard to break. That's another topic.

"Apathetic" About the Crisis Du Jure

If the Lemming sounds unconcerned, even "apathetic:" I am. I realize that the folks here in America who got sick from the new strains of bacteria had a distinctly not-good time, and that bacteria with resistance to the newer antibiotics are something that needs to be dealt with.

On the other hand, the Lemming doesn't think this is the end of civilization as we know it - or an indictment of Big Chicken - or whatever the crisis du jure is.

Minnesota Public Radio warns about antibiotics in livestock - and those Indians, who get antibiotics as over-the-counter medicine and don't use them right. (Minnesota Public Radio NewsQ) I've written about that sort of perception before. (September 15, 2010)

No, the Lemming isn't unaware of how improper use of antibiotics is a really bad idea. The Lemming is just "apathetic" about this being yet another great crisis.

Antibiotics: Great Stuff, When Used Sensibly

Despite what some discussions of 'those foreigners' might suggest, Americans don't seem to be paragons of proper prescription procedures, either. Over the decades, the Lemming has run into refrains of a basic tune: follow label instructions, or deal with the consequences. Long-term consequences in this case.

With antibiotics, it takes a certain length of time for regularly-administered doses to kill off all the bacteria in the patient's system. When the doses stop before all of the infection is dealt with - the patient is left with a whole lot fewer bacteria than before, and so feels better.

Problem is, the bacteria that are left are the survivors of that antibiotic. The ones that were resistant to it. Odds are that they'll grow and spread - and that's where we can get antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

'Resistant,' Not 'Invulnerable'

That's where this week's news comes in. Even before the United Kingdom researchers came up with their new treatment, there was a good chance that the resistant microbes were resistant to the kinder, gentler antibiotics we've got these days - that replaced the sort of 'almost worse than the disease' sort we had in my 'good old days.

"New drug that kills deadly superbugs in less than 5 minutes"
The Times of India (September 20, 2010)

"British scientists claim to have achieved a major breakthrough by developing a drug which could kill deadly superbugs like C-diff and MRSA.

"C-Diff or Clostridium difficile is a life-threatening bacterium that causes diarrhoea and intestinal problems, while MRSA or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus causes a number of difficult-to-treat infections in humans. Both are acquired by patients in hospitals.

"Now, a British team has claimed the new anti-bacterial drug, codenamed XF-73, can eradicate the superbugs within five minutes, which means that deadly bacteria have little chance of developing any resistance to it.

"The scientists believe XF-73 could be used to prevent the spread of infection on hospital wards within three years, the Daily Express reported. During tests, carriers of superbug bacteria had XF-73 gel placed inside their noses. The bugs were eradicated with no side effects, and MRSA did not show any resistance to the new drug in clinical tests even after 55 repeat exposures...."

Is this new drug going to solve all our problems? (New! Wonder-Drug XF-73! Now in Gel Form!) The Lemming seriously doubts that. Penicillin, for example, applied regularly to American children some fifty years back, made polio a comparatively rare disease here - not the major health problem it had been. But people still get sick and die.

Does this mean that penicillin is a bad thing? Maybe some kinda plot to do something-or-other fiendish? The Lemming doesn't think so.

The Lemming also thinks that 'superbug' is a problem - like any other serious disease that requires new (or old) treatments. But I doubt that the new sorts of bacteria that can make the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1) will be a bit more challenging to deal with that each year's new strains of influenza - but not by all that much.

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