Monday, June 25, 2007

Antibiotic-resistant infections rising in hospitals

Since I used antibiotic resistance as a major part in my essay, I thought I'd do a follow-up because of this article on an increase in incidents of Methillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). MRSA are bacteria that live primarily in the Emergency Rooms and Intensive Care Units of hospitals. To normal, healthy people, they're harmless, but if you have a wound or a compromised immune system, you DO NOT want to have this bug. It is extremely difficult to treat because it's resistant to just about all antibiotics. Going around the numbers and data, this is one paragraph that seemed really shocking to me:

People colonized with MRSA typically carry it in their nose without being symptomatic. They're at risk of passing the superbug to others unknowingly by wiping their nose and then touching a table that a doctor or nurse later touches, for instance. MRSA can live on surfaces for days and even weeks.
This is really worrying, because it's a double-whammy. People can be carriers of the disease, without being infected, which is a big problem for those who are susceptible. Your doctor could have it without knowing it. Really scary. The other way is that it can survive outside the body for a very long time, which makes transmission extremely simple. Of course, I'm not trying to scare you, but just be aware that evolution is kicking our butt.

(Thanks to Wired Science)

[NOTE:] Wired Science also links to another story in Wired Magazine about MRSA, and its problems in the military. However, the last paragraph strikes me as a surprise:

In the open source world of bacteria, everyone is working for the resistance. Ramping up the immunity of any single organism, while dramatically increasing the size of the population most susceptible to infection, only helps the enemy. To an aspiring superbug, war is anything but hell.
This makes sense to me. Bacteria are known to use transformation (Wikipedia is currently down at the moment, so I'm not to sure about that link). Transformation is basically when living bacteria absorb DNA from dead bacteria around them. So, if a drug-resistant bacteria is placed with non-drug-resistant bacteria, the non-drug-resistant bacteria can acquire the resistance. Therefore, every strain does not have to independently evolve a resistance. It can just be acquired from another strain. So, in addition to evolution, open source is kicking our butts. I think something should change.

1 comment:

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