Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs


Elizabeth Wang, Staff Writer

Ebola. Zika. Such words strike fear into people’s hearts. Viruses with no known treatment or cure. What does 2017 have in store for the human race? Perhaps something worse.

Antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” have emerged in the bacterial community. Chief medical officers describe these pathogens as being a national security threat equal to that of terrorism.

New strains of drug-resistant bacteria spawn due to the overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics are designed to destroy bacteria when people are sick. When bacteria mutates, it becomes no longer treatable and can multiply and spread.

The World Health Organization has categorized three pathogens as being a critical priority for research: Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and members of the Enterobacteriaceae family. Such pathogens have become resistant to the antibiotic carbapenem, which, until recently, had been used by doctors a reliable “last line of defense” against most diseases.

Although medical scientists are attempting to establish new antibiotics, they are not having much luck. Not only is discovering a new form of treatment uncommon, but also new drugs are often not profitable for pharmaceutical companies, as doctors are instructed to avoid the use of new drugs except in extreme cases. Patients are being treated with the minimal amount of antibiotics possible to prevent further bacterial resistance from spawning.

Countries worldwide are attempting to encourage more research. England has promised a $1 billion prize for discovering a new family of antibiotics. China has donated $72 million to support antibiotic research. The World Health Organization hopes to receive more funding in the coming year.                               

Antibiotic-resistant bacterias caused the deaths of an estimated 23,000 Americans last year. This number will increase. With the spread of jet travel and recreational tourism, bacterial strains once isolated to certain continents are now spreading throughout the rest of the world. Let the battle against bacteria commence.