- This story is a first for New Zealand but it will not be the last.
- All around the world, antibiotic resistance, among virulent strains of bacteria, is rising as a result of the indiscriminate and careless application of antibiotics.
- The problem is that people are prescribed a course of antibiotics but they only take part of them. They decide, all on their own and against medical advice, that they feel fine and don’t need to finish the entire course.
- But what happens, when you are taking a course of antibiotics, is that the weakest of the bugs succumb first to the drugs and it takes until near the end of the course before the strongest and most resistant of the bugs succumbs.
- So, if you stop early, you’ve only killed the weakest ones and the strongest one survive and carry on.
- When such bugs pass through person after person, each of whom doesn’t complete the course, the net effect is like a filter that acts to concentrate and strengthen and nastiest of the bugs.
- And, eventually, the bugs strength and resistance is such that antibiotics will no longer touch them.
- People have misused antibiotics in this way since they were invented.
– For a long time, the answer to increasing resistance was to invent or discover a new antibiotics to deal with the bugs that had become resistant to other antibiotics.
- But, it has become more and more difficult to invent or discover new antibiotics even as the abuse of the existing antibiotics continues.
- So, the net effect world-wide is that the bugs are getting stronger and the antibiotics less effective and there will be a time, soon, when we will return to the bad-old-days; the way they were before we had antibiotics.
- So, unless we discover some new antibiotics, those bad-old-days, which are soon to come again, will be upon us. And simply being near someone with, say, tuberculosis could be a death sentence.
- Think about this the next time someone coughs near you in public.
- There are several morals to this story, if such things appeal to you:
- (1) No single rain drop thinks it is responsible for the flood.
- (2) Electing politicians who don’t ‘believe’ in science is a sure guarantee of future pandemics.
- (3) Thinking about where you live in terms of population density, the quality of your medical care and the level of intelligence among your politicians – these things are in your best interest.
- (4) If you think this is not happening around you, you’ve been ignoring science and the warnings it has been issuing for a long time now.
- And remember, nature doesn’t care what you ‘believe’. And nature bats last.
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He died fighting a superbug that no antibiotic in the world could touch.
Wellington teacher Brian Pool is believed to be New Zealand’s first victim of an aggressive superbug, caught while he was overseas, that is resistant to every type of antibiotic.
Pool, 68, spent most of the last six months of his life in quarantine, unable to leave his room even to sit in the courtyard.
“It was sad because we couldn’t give him a hug, we couldn’t really kiss him,” twin sister Maureen Dunn said.
“He just wanted to get out in the sun, and we couldn’t take him out.
“Being his twin sister, I would be the one who always rescued him . . . it was terrible, but there was nothing we could do.”
Her brother died on July 6, from complications caused by a stroke and unrelated to the bug.
But doctors say his immune system was weakened by fighting the nightmare bacteria.
The adventurous teacher, known for his quirky sense of humour, was living in Vietnam and teaching English when he suffered a brain haemorrhage on January 6.
He had surgery in Vietnam, where part of his skull was removed to relieve pressure on his brain, and was flown to New Zealand.
In Wellington Hospital, he was immediately isolated, a standard precaution for overseas patients.
Tests revealed he was carrying a strain of bacterium known as KPC-Oxa 48 – a “pan-resistant” organism that repels every kind of antibiotic.
“Nothing would touch it. Absolutely nothing,” Wellington Hospital clinical microbiologist Mark Jones said yesterday.
“It’s the first one that we’ve ever seen that is resistant to every single antibiotic known.
“This man was in the post-antibiotic era, and this is why so many agencies over the world are raising alarm bells.”
Earlier this year, British chief medical officer Sally Davies described resistance to antibiotics as a “catastrophic global threat” that should be ranked alongside terrorism.
New Zealand hospitals are already seeing increasing cases of multi-resistant “superbugs”, which can be treated by only a limited number of expensive antibiotics.
Dunn said the family was frightened, and even Mr Pool’s doctors did not seem to know what the superbug might do.
“They were shit scared, to put it bluntly, in case these bugs were transferred to another patient or taken out into the community.”