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The Unseen Enemy
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Those Deadly Drug Resistant Diseases

By James Donahue

The spread of new powerful strains of drug resistant diseases like tuberculosis, gonorrhea, staph infections and a host of other strange sounding bacterium like Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumonia are sweeping the world and convicting their victims to certain death.

Medical people warned that this was going to happen. They said the careless use by doctors to use antibiotics to cure just about any infection, the decision by soap companies to add antibiotics to our hand soap and the excessive use of antibiotics on farm animals have helped create these new "monster" bacteria.

As hard as we have tried, mankind has learned the hard way that we cannot outsmart Mother Nature. When we treat infections with antibiotics, but don’t kill all of the bacteria in the wound, the strains that survive the assault go on to produce stronger variations of bacteria that are harder to kill. As we repeated this constant behavior, it was inevitable that eventually we would produce a strain of bacteria that cannot be killed by existing antibiotics.

Now with most of our meat coming from factory farms where the livestock is fed a daily ration of antibiotics to keep them "healthy" before they are herded to the slaughterhouse, we are eating the meat laced with those antibiotics. The excess drugs are passed off in farm waste that works its way into the soil and our water supply. Consequently we have become "sitting ducks" now that the new strain of drug resistant bacteria are lurking in places where we would least expect.

A recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine said China is facing a "serious epidemic" of multi-drug-resistant tuberculoses. This same form of the disease is now turning up all over the world, especially among low-income minority groups. Multi-drug resistant means the combinations of the most powerful drugs once used successfully to treat tuberculoses no longer work. It now takes months if not years of treatment using a wider variety of drugs and sometimes the surgical removal of the infected portion of the lung to save the patient. Tuberculoses is highly contagious. An estimated 1.5 million people die every year from this disease.

Since it was first discovered in Japan in 2008, the "superbug" strain of gonorrhea has begun to spread throughout the world, the United Nations health agency reports. The World Health Organization says cases have since turned up in Britain, Australia, France, Norway and Sweden. One WHO researcher recently told a medical team meeting in Geneva that this new form of gonococcal infection "has developed resistance to virtually every class of antibiotics that exist." Gonorrhea leads to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirths, blindness and infertility.

The other troublesome bugs on the loose these days are not as well known to people on the street, but hospital and medical personnel are especially worried about them. That is because they tend to strike the people with low immune systems . . . the very people who usually end up as hospital patients. And when these diseases strike, they can quickly kill.

Staphylococcus is the name given to a group of bacteria that can attack the body in a variety of ways. The infections can sometimes be mild or they can be severe and even fatal. A type of "Staph" has been blamed for the peculiar flesh eating disease that has been in the news this year.

The Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria can cause dangerous infections of the lungs, blood and brain. It infects the urinary tract and wounds. It is highly contagious and is a common problem in hospitals.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a pathogen found in moist places that takes advantage of weakened immune systems. Consequently it also is a common problem in hospitals and nursing homes. The symptoms are fever, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and skin, ear and eye infections. When it gets in the bone it causes swollen infected joints.

Klebsiella pneumonia is just what it sounds like, a severe form of pneumonia. When it strikes it comes on rapidly, causes high fever, dizziness and chills. Patients cough up thick bloody sputum. If not treated the bacteria can punch holes in the lining of the lungs and spread to the nose.

The latter three bugs belong to a category of bacteria classified as "gram-negative." They are especially hard to fight because they are wrapped in a double membrane and harbor enzymes that attack many antibiotics. While some drugs still work, the ones that treat gram-negative bacteria are fast losing their punch. The quest for new ones is on, but can they be developed in time?

These are dangerous times, especially if we travel a lot, must be confined in rooms with large numbers of people, or must seek hospital treatment. The best defense is to always wash our hands, wash and cook our food thoroughly, and use bleach to clean off counter tops and objects handled by the general public. Maintain the immune system if at all possible.