Antibiotic Resistant Superbugs: Is the Danger Is Real and How to Deal with It?
The Initial Information about Antibiotic Resistance
Bacteria are one-celled things that come in a much higher number than animals or plants. They were the first signs of life on Earth emerged in the seas. Their ability to convert sunlight into oxygen created the air. Everything on our planet, including us, exists thanks to bacteria. The problem is that not all bacteria are good for people, and many of them are able to cause various infections or even death.
Antibiotics have saved millions of lives against bacterial infections, but soon humanity may face the danger of inability to treat various serious diseases because of antibiotic resistant superbugs. Since the middle of the 20 century, scientists started to warn about the overuse of the medications, which makes them less effective or useless because bacteria started to mutate and become resistant to antibiotics.
Since the 1950s, the number of infections that are hard to treat increased significantly. Antibiotic resistant superbugs have become the problem of international level, forcing government and nongovernment organization to increased people’s awareness about the problem and the methods required to stop this process.
How Superbugs Affect Humanity Today
According to the report of U.S. CDC published in 2013, over 23,000 people die because of antibiotic resistance each year in the USA. In 2016, Lord Jim O’Neill issued the Review, according to which each year 700,000 people die because of superbug causing various infections, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, bacterial infections, or tuberculosis. All in all, annually, 50,000 lives are taken away by infections resistant to antibiotics in both the US and Europe.
According to the conclusion by the author, by 2050, over 10 million lives will have been lost because of this major problem.
Why Are Superbugs So Powerful?
Lots of brand medications exist today, but they are really all come from a certain of 15 classes of drugs that are able to attack bacteria. These medications work by either damaging the outer membranes of microbes or affecting their ability to reproduce. If bacteria manage to mutate, successfully resisting to a medication that is used to kill it, it also gains a property to resist the effects of all of the medicines using the same mechanism of action. This means that if bacteria survive once after being attacked by an antibiotic, this medication and all of other drugs from the same group will be unable to destroy the infection.
Bacteria compete against fungi, which emit special chemicals able to destroy the microbes. First antibiotics were developed using fungal chemicals. Bacteria did not want to give up and started mutating. The ability of bacteria to gain resistance is mostly achieved thanks to plasmids. Plasmids are promiscuous that can jump from one bacteria group to another, sharing the ability to resist to certain drugs between them. This plasmid sharing is a real hazard for people because it leads to forming superbugs.
Is It Possible to Prevent the Development of Superbugs by Destroying Plasmids?
Plasmids that are able to replicate without the bacteria housing them can jump to other bacterial species sharing with them the needed materials for antibiotic resistance.
If these plasmids are destroyed, the bacteria possessing them will become sensitive to antibiotics. This process of sharing is called plasmid incompatibility. One of the attempts to affect plasmids was made by Paul Hergenrother and his team. They aimed at looking for a synthetic molecule that would be able to do the same actions as plasmids.
They have reached a range of important results. For instance, they have achieved the full elimination of E. coli cells from pMU2403 plasmid thanks to apramycin, which made the bacteria sensitive to ampicillin.
Hergenrother and the members of his team continue their research about the effectiveness of plasmids against other antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
What Are the Most Dangerous Bacteria?
The following are considered the most dangerous bacteria because of the high antibiotic resistance:
- Acinetobacter baumannii. They are insensitive to carbapenems. These bacteria are able to cause many infections leading to hospitalization, including wound, pneumonia, or blood infections;
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa also resist They can cause ear infections, skin rashes, pneumonia, and blood infections;
- Enterobacteriaceae can be treated neither with cephalosporins nor carbapenems. This group of bacteria includes Salmonella and E. coli;
Although the bacteria causing tuberculosis are also highly dangerous, they are not on this list because there have been designed new antibiotics that are able to treat it.
What Can We Do about the Problem?
Of course, superbugs are a global problem, but each of us can do simple things to help in solving it. You can do the following actions:
- Wash your hands before preparing or having meals, after using the bathroom, after doing dirty tasks, such as gardening. Correspondingly, it is important to keep your hands clean after blowing your nose, sneezing, coughing, interacting with your pet, and visiting a sick person;
- Purchase vaccines. If you have pneumonia, flu, or shingles, you become more sensitive to superbug infections;
- Do not overuse antibiotics because it is one of the main reasons for antibiotic resistance. It is important to use these medications only when it is absolutely needed. If you disagree with your healthcare provider who does not want to prescribe your with antibiotics, you should take a special test proving the need to use antibiotics. You should use antibiotics only as prescribed by your healthcare provider;
- You should only choose animal-based certified organic foods because lots of antibiotic resistance superbugs appear thanks to the use of antibiotics in agriculture to enhance the growth. That is why it is important to choose products with the label “USDA Certified Organic,” including poultry, eggs, dairy products, and meat.