16 months ago, I wrote about the dangers of resistant strains of common bacteria. This is at http://cynics4bettertomorrow.org/wordpress/?p=433. In there, I said that in 2012, that 60% of Staphylococcus aureus seen by US doctors were MRSA. Now, in 2014, the World Health Organization reports that in the Americas 90% of Staphylococcus aureus infections are reported to be methicillin-resistant (MRSA) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/amr-report/en/. Daily Kos has a simpler article on the problem, that says nearly the same things at World must consider antibiotic-resistant pathogens to be same level of a threat as climate change
MRSA is on all continents, in all or nearly-all nations. As such, it is now a full-blown pandemic. The FDA has found that between 8.5% – 22.5% of chicken and pork products were infected with MRSA, and the numbers are believed to be rising even higher. Over 2 million people in the United States are infected with MRSA alone, with 23,000 of them dying from them, adding $23 billion to annual healthcare costs. Infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria kill far more people than HIV or AIDS, WHO and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have sent out warnings about all of this, but those went unheeded.
It remains a “hidden epidemic” because resistant strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria are not reportable diseases, and are not listed as such on death certificates. Usually, a MRSA death lists “complications” as cause of death on the death certificate.
We have not developed a new antibiotic in 20 years. It takes years to develop a new antibiotic, and there are none in the pipeline. Pharmaceutical companies have been asked and encouraged to, but with the cost of developing and marketing a new medication being so high, the drugs they wish to introduce and develop are for chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or cholesterol. People take those drugs for years, and they remain as effective as they were, and useful until a better class of drugs is developed. Antibiotics, by contrast, are taken for 10-14 days, and the person is done with them. They don’t get continual refills for antibiotics. They don’t sell at nearly as high of a price, so there is little return on investment. Or, insurance companies and institutions will not put them on their “formulary”, will not provide nor pay for them, and they get prescribed an older, cheaper, and ineffective antibiotic. They get sicker, and more costly to treat, or they die.
According to Frontline, some doctors are making the problem worse, by overprescribing antibiotics to those who will not benefit from them, failing to test, or failing to follow-up with such patients.
Yes, other nations could have their companies or their governments develop antibiotics. The fact is that most of the drug research is done in the United States, with nearly all of the experts in pharmacology research being in the United States. Without the people or expertise, it will take them decades to catch up. The US government can encourage, or even pay corporations to develop such things, but if it is not profitable enough, the pharmaceutical companies will not do it. Even at that, it will take years to develop a new antibiotic.
We are now in a post-antibiotic era!
The result of having no antibiotics which will prevent common infections will put our surgeons and hospitals back to where they were in the 18th century. Surgeries were possible then, and some were done, but there was a high chance of dying of an infection afterward.
I disagree with the writer of the DailyKos article. This will be the year remembered for when we set up an international organization recognizing there was a problem, and too late to actually do much about it. It is the year that many more people in the United States got healthcare insurance, access to medical care, and were inadvertently infected with deadly bacteria getting long-term or chronic conditions treated.
This problem was identified in the early 1970s. It should have been addressed then, and throughout the 1980s and 1990s. It is probably too late to stop this now.
So… what to do? Stay home if you’re sick. Eat a balanced diet with plenty of liquids. Avoid drugs. Avoid getting infections: Treat all cuts with antiseptic. Drink enough water. Get enough rest. Avoid seeking healthcare. Avoid visiting hospitals and medical centers if your immune system is compromised due to age, medications, or disease. Stay out of crowded places. If you have a condition that requires surgery, see if there are ways to avoid surgery. If you’re pregnant, deliver your baby at home, with a midwife, and limit visitors to the new mother or newborn baby. ESPECIALLY do not allow those infected with MRSA to visit, or with unknown skin infections.
I’m saying this as a person who was once infected with MRSA several years ago during surgery at a hospital. The infection required a second surgery. After that surgery, rather than an isolation room, I was placed in the obstetrics ward because my reserved isolation room had been given to someone else, when I was late getting out of surgery. While in the obstetrics unit, along with reminding everyone who entered my room to observe handwashing policies, I refused to go see and hold those “cute little babies”. I was shamed after I refused, because “you must hate babies”. I’m no fan of babies, and my other articles on this blog points out I object to reproducing, but I certainly would not want to kill already-born infants! Fortunately, I do not react well to pressure, guilt, and manipulation, and I don’t really care what anyone thinks of me. What on earth were they thinking, or were they thinking??? The next person they did that to or with might not understand what it meant to have antibiotic-reisistant bacteria, and it might matter more to them if this nurse’s aid thought they hated babies or something.
I’ve been posting on Cynics for a Better Tomorrow since its beginning that although there are numerous threats to the short-term survival of civilization or the human race, but I thought that the highest probability was a microbe. Higher than nuclear war. Higher than ecological disaster. Higher than natural disaster. I’m sad to say that I might be right, even with the new information about climate change coming faster and harder than we think.