Back To Square One / Short LifeSpans

The History of Medicine:

  • 2000 B.C.—Here, eat this root.
  • 1000 A.D.—That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.
  • 1850 A.D.—That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.
  • 1920 A.D.—That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.
  • 1945 A.D.—That pill is ineffective. Here, take this penicillin.
  • 1955 A.D.—Oops … bugs mutated. Here, take this tetracycline.
  • 1960–1999 A.D.—39 more “oops.”… Here, take this more powerful antibiotic.
  • 2000 A.D.—The bugs have won! Here, eat this root.

—Anonymous, as cited by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2000a)


Warnings ignored :(

In 1945, Alexander Fleming, a pioneer in antibiotics, said, “the misuse of penicillin could be the propagation of mutant forms of bacteria that would resist the new miracle drug.”

Even now, few are listening, and the consequences could be severe. It could mean that friends and family won’t live as long in the future. Please read on…

Overprescription in Australia

When doctors fail to adhere to guidelines set to keep the public safe in the future, there are two possible next steps:

  • make it illegal to prescribe antibiotics for viral illnesses
  • run a public information campaign in the media, that says doctors who wrongly prescribe antibiotics are not the trusted

Australian GPs are overprescribing antibiotics for respiratory infections, even when their use is not recommended, research shows.

Antibiotics are prescribed for acute respiratory infections (ARI) at rates four to nine times higher than recommended by national guidelines, the researchers found.

…They found an estimated mean of 5.97 million ARI cases per year were managed in general practice with at least one antibiotic.

Had GPs adhered to widely consulted antibiotic prescribing guidelines, they would have prescribed antibiotics for 650,000 to 1.36 million cases a year or 11-23 per cent of the current prescribing rate, they said.

The researchers found GPs are prescribing antibiotics in 85 per cent of acute bronchitis/bronchiolitis cases and 11 per cent of influenza cases, despite guidelines recommending they not be used.


Welcome to the new age


Which sexually transmitted disease:

Surely a recipe for a massive breakout.

Gonorrhoea can be fatal but that is relatively rare. Still, it is very nasty and you would choose to avoid it if you could. Consider this an indication of how less fun the world will be when antibiotics stop working their magic for us.

Vancomycin – now 1000x more powerful

The original form of vancomycin is an ideal starting place for developing better antibiotics. The antibiotic has been prescribed by doctors for 60 years, and bacteria are only now developing resistance to it.

…Combined with the previous modifications, this alteration gives vancomycin a 1,000-fold increase in activity, meaning doctors would need to use less of the antibiotic to fight infection.

The discovery makes this version of vancomycin the first antibiotic to have three independent mechanisms of action. “This increases the durability of this antibiotic,” said Boger. “Organisms just can’t simultaneously work to find a way around three independent mechanisms of action. Even if they found a solution to one of those, the organisms would still be killed by the other two.”

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-05-antibiotic-bacterial-resistance.html#jCp

MultiDrug Cocktails – A Solution or Tragedy?

The big problem with antibiotic resistance is that we don’t know what is next in terms of solutions. In a few years someone could make a miraculous discovery. Or we could wait decades and all that changes is the number of people dying.

One option is combining multiple antibiotics together, something that has been shown to work. Although the scientists don’t fully understand why it works, it gets results just like multidrugs for HIV.

So there’s a conundrum. It could just work for a hundred years. Or it could work for 5 years and create super-super-drug resistant bacteria that will never be defeated.

I guess the solution is to concentrate on using these products as sparingly as possible.

Story at OZY


Superbug Defeats 26 Antibiotics, Kills Woman

Public health officials from Nevada are reporting on a case of a woman who died in Reno in September from an incurable infection. Testing showed the superbug that had spread throughout her system could fend off 26 different antibiotics.

The near future will have lots more stories like this, and totals, and trends. And slowly and surely many people will choose to lead more hermit-like existences.

Bacteria Containing MCR-1 Gene Found in Denmark

Untreatable Superbug.

Totally resistant to all antibiotics, and recently found in China as well. While there are promising new antibiotics in the pipeline, only time will tell if they are developed quick enough.

Just weeks after the discovery in China of bacteria resistant to all known forms of treatment, the same strain has been found in Denmark. Worse: It’s been there since 2012. Late last week researchers at the Technical University of Denmark announced they had found the feared ‘invulnerability’ gene among E. coli bacteria samples taken from humans and food. The scientists had been conducting a review of a genetic database of some 3000 different E. coli samples taken since 2009. Specifically they were seeking the mcr-1 gene, a mutation which gives bacteria a frightening resistance to the last effective family of antibiotics — colistin.
Herald Sun

The British Government is Trying

Given the ramifications of a world without antibiotics, and the dearth of viable products in the pipeline, you’d think the world’s governments would make some cash incentives available, or attempt to create new products themselves.

Unfortunately the appropriate large and generous reaction is unlikely because it doesn’t win votes. This is the same reason why the city of New Orleans failed to prepare for the inevitable hurricane – it was easier to save dollars and try to be re-elected than “waste” money protecting the public from something that didn’t happen in the short term.

The good news is that the UK government is potentially making an effort, thanks to the recommendations of a Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), led by former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill:

The first is to establish a five-year $2 billion (£1.3 billion) AMR Innovation Fund to support research and development. Pharmaceutical companies would provide the money – equivalent to less than 0.6% of the top 10 companies’ current R&D expenditure – and universities and small bio-tech companies would receive funding to kick-start early-stage research.

…The second recommendation is to create one global purchaser funded by governments and healthcare providers. This would reward drug companies for valuable new antibiotics – not through sales volume, but based on their social value. [The Conversation]

Hopefully it amounts to something, or even leads to inter-government dialogue.

1000-year-old Remedy Kills MRSA

MRSA, as you probably know, is an antibiotic-resistant superbug. On a whim, UK researchers have tested the abilities of a recipe found in Bald’s Leechbook, a thousand-year-old compendium of medical advice and potions.

Take cropleek and garlic, of both equal quantities, pound them well together… take wine and bullocks gall, mix with the leek… let it stand nine days in the brass vessel…

Intended to cure eye infections, it looks like it might help in the fight against MRSA.
I say might, because Wikipedia already lists a number of other natural MRSA killers – like honey, akin, cannabis – but none are doing the job for us yet.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/nasty-medieval-remedy-kills-mrsa-180954808/?no-ist