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…

Humans could catch Zombie Deer Disease

It is a prion disease, like mad cow disease…

Deer across North America are dying from a mysterious disease that gradually destroys the animals’ nervous systems.

An animal infected with the disease can live two years before signs of symptoms — such as a vacant stare, thick saliva, exposed ribs or drooping heads — become visible.

…sick animals and cadavers can spread prions through plants and soil, which could be coated with deformed proteins for years, perhaps even decades.

macaque monkeys who ate infected deer contracted the disease, the first time the disease was shown to spread to a primate through meat.

Story from rare.us


No need for commentary, these are the ones to worry about, from New Scientist, republished here.
These are the diseases the World Health Organization thinks we should find remedies for, fast. The first six are its highest priority.

Lassa fever

This West African virus, carried by the common Natal multimammate rat, infects 300,000 people a year. Most have no symptoms, but it can cause diarrhoea and vomiting, then internal fluid accumulation, bleeding from orifices, shock, seizure and coma. It kills some 5000 people annually. Initial symptoms resemble other local diseases, making diagnosis tricky – one reason West Africa was slow to spot Ebola.


This bat virus started killing people in 1999 in Malaysia after pig farms were built near fruit bats, which dropped half-eaten fruit into pigsties. People get it from pigs and bats, but it can also spread between humans. Nipah breaks out sporadically in and around densely populated Bangladesh, causes inflammation of the brain and has a high fatality rate.

Rift Valley fever

Widespread across Africa, this virus invaded the Arabian Peninsula in 2000, and could go further. It mainly infects cattle and is spread by mosquitoes; people can get it from mosquito bites or by eating infected beef. Symptoms are usually mild but it can cause haemorrhagic fever, which kills in half of cases.

SARS, MERS and emerging coronaviruses

These related bat viruses infect a range of mammals and have already emerged in humans twice, resulting in severe pneumonia: SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2014. Both spread from human to human.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever

Found across Africa, Asia and south-east Europe, the virus is invading new territory as its tick hosts capitalise on global warming. It appeared in western Europe in 2010. Infected people generally have a mild fever but some strains cause severe haemorrhagic disease, with bleeding internally and from orifices, from which 30 per cent of people die.


A virus spread by Aedes mosquitoes between monkeys and small mammals in East Africa, Chikungunya started causing large epidemics around 2000 and exploded into Asia in 2005, after mutations made it better adapted to a new mosquito host. In 2014, it invaded the Americas and has occurred in Europe. It rarely kills but causes debilitating joint pains, which can persist for months.


A monkey virus that has infected humans in Africa and Asia for decades, Zika suddenly entered the Americas in 2013. In 2015, it was linked to a wave of severe birth defects including microcephaly. Companies are already working on vaccines but the WHO wants extra research into the virus’s effects on fetal brains.

Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome

Flies under the radar – possibly because of its name. The virus, discovered in 2011, can cause fever and multi-organ failure, killing 12 per cent of people it infects. It has been found in east Asia, seems to be carried by farm animals, and is spread by ticks. A nearly identical virus, called heartland, has turned up in the US.

Novel agent

Given the rate at which previously unknown or obscure infections have suddenly emerged in humans and other animals, the WHO is leaving a slot on its list for a germ we don’t yet know. Research here may include looking for agents that might explode.

Chagas Disease

Definitely worse than Zika, this disease is not receiving much attention, because in the USA it is mostly immigrants that have it, and there are no visible signs that you are infected.

Chagas kills 10,000 people evert year, and 100,00 Americans are infected. Yep, and you haven’t heard of it?

  • Chagas is not typically transmitted from person to person. The insect that spreads it is called the kissing bug, because it tends to bite people on the face, near the lips or eyes, while they sleep.
  • Thirty percent of those infected develop life-threatening complications years later ― for some it’s an enlarged heart or heart failure, for others it’s an enlarged esophagus or colon. For many, though, Chagas is asymptomatic. A massive heart attack might be the first clue the parasite is there at all.
  • Chagas is treatable, but not if the case is too advanced.
  • The only available medications are hard to obtain, come with terrible side effects and don’t guarantee a cure.
  • Only 1 percent of people with Chagas ever get treated for it.

Clearly this disease needs to be better known, and cures sought. But as long as the suffers are poor immigrants, there’s little chance of that happening…

Source: HuffPost

Gonorrhoea about to go viral

Tip of the iceberg:

More than 1,000 cases of almost-untreatable superbugs were reported in Australia in the 12 months to March this year.

Key points:

  • Superbugs are resistant to “almost everything”
  • Authorities concerned about spread of gonorrhoea
  • Nursing homes singled out as having high proportion of superbugs

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