"Superbugs”: it sounds like a Hollywood blockbuster about space aliens, or maybe a Pixar film about a fun-loving gang of insects wearing capes. But the antibiotic-resistant bacteria (aka “superbugs”) that have been hitting the headlines recently have nothing to do with Oscar nominations — and they are a real matter of life and death.
Antibiotics that doctors have long depended on to save human lives have stopped working. And part of the reason is that farmers abuse them in animal agriculture for non-medical reasons, giving rise to those “superbugs.” Here’s how that happened, and what you can do.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria and fungi have spread beyond hospitals, complicating medical care, new CDC report says.
Now a new study, years in the making, goes further than any other to demonstrate that resistant bacteria can move from animals to humans via the meat they become. It also provides a model of how new surveillance systems might reduce that bacterial flow at its source on farms.
When one man fell into a coma, his wife sought out a Soviet-era medical technique called phage therapy that ended up saving his life.
Scientists have pinpointed a molecule that accelerates the evolution of drug-resistant microbes. Now they’re trying to find a way to block it.
People have used antibiotics to treat infections since the early 1940s, but naturally produced antibiotics are millions of years old. These medicines are derived from natural products that bacteria and fungi use to combat other bacteria. They use these products to eliminate their competition.
Most of the antibiotics produced by industry have one thing in common: they work the same way. They block the bacteria’s ability to make proteins, DNA, RNA or even its cell wall, the consequences of which are deadly to the bacteria. Thus most new antibiotics are not based on new ways to kill bacteria; they’re simply incremental improvements.
The bottom line is that an alternative to antibiotics must be developed. A new industry has emerged that focuses on using viruses to kill bacteria, but these efforts have been inconsistent.
You might think antibiotic resistance is something to worry about in the distant future. But it’s already having a deadly impact today.
The number of people dying globally every week from antibiotic resistant infections is equivalent to 32 Boeing 747s full of people. And if that sounds scary, the projections for the future are even scarier.
The Candida auris outbreak is a reminder that patients have no way of telling whether their hospital has infections.
Antibiotic resistance risks returning us to an age where even simple cuts and scrapes can become deadly. For a glimpse of what could be commonplace in our future, here are five of the scariest antibiotic resistant bacteria from the last five years.
We need an entirely new class of antibiotic, which scientists have been unable to create for more than 50 years. Until now, that is.
To curb life-threatening infections, medical centers are setting hygiene standards for commonplace equipment.
One chemist thinks he’s found a way for us to outrun the lethal juggernaut of antibiotic resistance.
By ripping out floor tiles, reconfiguring pipes, and maybe deploying a hydrogen peroxide–spraying robot. Plus, a lot of bleach.
The CDC listed 18 species of bacteria and fungi that are of greatest concern. The fear is that these superbugs could spread resistance to other disease-causing organisms, rendering modern medicines’ most powerful weapons useless.
At the same time, many scholars across the United States are addressing the problem and coming up with innovative solutions to fight these microscopic threats. Here we spotlight four examples from our 2018-2019 archives...
Meningitis, pneumonia, deadly diarrhea. Antibiotic developers have long struggled to treat such dreaded diseases because the bacteria that cause them have double cell walls with an outer membrane that is particularly difficult for drugs to penetrate. The only new products to fight such gram-negative bacteria in the past 50 years are variations on existing, already approved drugs. Yet resistance to those classes of compounds is soaring. Now, a team of scientists has created a compound that breaches these bacterial outer membranes in a novel way—and could one day save the lives of people infected with bacteria that today foil every gram-negative antibiotic on the market.
There has been a lot of news over the past few weeks about the rise of superbugs and antibiotic overuse, including a nasty sexually transmitted infection in the United Kingdom. A British man is the first in the world to be diagnosed with a strain of gonorrhoea resistant to all strains of antibiotics used to treat the infection.
To tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR), we need to look at all the factors behind how and when antibiotics are used. One obstacle I often see as a medical microbiologist working in developing countries, is a lack of access to clean water, which makes preventing and controlling infections nearly impossible. It is a major driver of inappropriate antibiotic use and, ultimately, the growth in antibiotic-resistant bugs – so-called “superbugs”.
There are trillions of bacteria living inside all of us. Why are we pretending they aren’t on our X-ray machines?
Almost as soon as antibiotics were introduced into clinical circulation, cases where their ability to effectively stop infection were observed. As the use of antibiotics became more widespread, the prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria increased. In a recent study in Atlanta, 25% of bacterial pneumonia cases were shown to be resistant to penicillin, while a further 25% of cases were resistant to more than one antibiotic.
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The W.H.O. report rated research on three pathogens as “critical priority.” They are carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, along with all members of the Enterobacteriaceae family resistant to both carbapenems and third-generation cephalosporins.
A new strategy prevents parasites from adapting to drugs by intensifying the competition between them.
But the truth is that MRSA has become so widespread that anyone can now become infected, even an otherwise healthy adult like myself. And I didn’t need to go anywhere special to pick it up. Scientists have found MRSA lingering on the seatbacks of airplanes, in meat from the supermarket, in coastal waters, and possibly even in the wind. Two percent of people harbor MRSA in their nose. Superbugs are everywhere.
Superbugs are already an enormous public health problem. According to Vox, “In the United States alone, antibiotic-resistant infections are now associated with 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses every year. By 2050, a report out of the UK suggested drug-resistant infections will kill more people than cancer.”
It’s more than resistant bacterial superbugs that should scare us. Only a few months after the Wellcome Trust's dire report on growing antibiotic resistance and the looming “post-antibiotic era,” a new report stresses that it is not just bacteria we need to worry about. Viruses and parasites are showing growing resistance to antimicrobials as well, and countries are ill-equipped to deal with this.
Humans are quickly losing the fight against bacteria as so-called "superbugs" continue to develop resistance to some of the last effective antibiotics, leading some scientists to worry about the possibility of untreatable bacterial infections.
The reality of increasing bacterial resistance seems at first to be an obvious example of onwards and upwards evolution. But the facts, when carefully examined, show otherwise.
It is no longer a secret that drug-resistant bacteria are rapidly emerging and spreading all around the world as a result of the continued overuse and abuse of antibiotic drugs in both conventional medicine and industrial agriculture.
The public has been ill-served by journalists reporting on the very real threat that antibiotic resistance poses.
Most accounts describe antibiotic-resistant bacteria as “tough”, “hardy”, “strong” etc. The “superbug” trope itself implies that they have special powers that render them invincible. This is almost always untrue.
A combination of gene editing and viruses that attack bacteria could help scientists fight antibiotic resistance.
The FDA on Tuesday issued a set of guidelines for veterinarians who will, as of next year, be responsible for prescribing antibiotics for animals destined for the dinner plate—marking a key step in ending the practice of distributing those drugs over the counter. Widespread overuse in both animals and humans has created strains of microbes that no longer respond to popular forms of treatment, according to consumer groups and public health officials.
The discovery of antibiotics is one of the most important medical advances of our time. So why are we squandering this life-sustaining resource?
That's the question at the center of Resistance, filmmaker Michael Graziano's new documentary about society's collective misuse and abuse of antimicrobials and how we have created an environment in which superbugs are not only increasingly common and deadly, but also unresponsive to the pharmaceuticals we have.
“Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill,” Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s assistant director-general for health security, said in a statement.
Scientists who recently discovered a new strain of superbug have now tracked its transmission between animals and humans.
In a survey of government plans to tackle the issue, the World Health Organization said only a quarter of the 133 countries that responded were addressing the problem.
"This is the single greatest challenge in infectious diseases today," said Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's assistant director-general for health security. "All types of microbes, including many viruses and parasites, are becoming resistant."
About a year ago, I told you about an indie effort to put together a superbug documentary called Resistance. The filmmakers, Ernie Park and Michael Graziano (who made the excellent documentary Lunch Line about school lunch programs), have been traveling around the world since then, meeting victims of antibiotic resistance and talking to health care professionals and researchers about superbugs’ inexorable advance.
The story of the superbug MRSA raised awareness of the growing uselessness of antibiotics, but that has been brought largely under control through better hygiene, at least in the UK.
The rise of other lethal drug-resistant organisms, including salmonella, TB, and E coli, continues, and the chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, warned MPs this week the threat must be listed on the government's National Register of Civil Emergencies.
There's little argument -- even from mainstream medicine -- that too many doctors routinely prescribe antibiotics for illnesses, such as the common cold, for which these prescription drugs do nothing.
A new strategy prevents parasites from adapting to drugs by intensifying the competition between them.
The paucity of treatment options is fueling interest in phage, which some researchers are calling a critical weapon against the kind of infections that threatened the lives of Mallory Smith and Tom Patterson. For now, however, phage is not widely available in the U.S. Only a handful of people have received it, and it requires special clearance, because it isn’t yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Before phage can go mainstream, the science needs to catch up,
As fears grow of a future in which antibiotics are powerless against rampaging infections in humans, experts are stepping up the call to act on what they say is a large part of the problem: overuse of the drugs on farm animals.
An antibiotic created from sweat could fend off hospital superbugs and deadly strains of TB, researchers say.
A chemical called dermcidin is activated in salty, slightly acidic perspiration and perforates the cell membrane of harmful microbes, eventually killing them.
A team of scientists just won a battle in the war against antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” – and only time will tell whether their feat is akin to a bacterial Battle of Gettysburg that turns the tide toward victory.
Those top three bacteria cause infections that are particularly hard to treat in hospitals, in nursing homes, and in patients who are on things like ventilators," says Suzanne Hill, director of the Department of Essential Medicines and Health Products at the WHO. It's not clear whether these antibiotic-resistant bacteria spring out of hospitals and clinics, or if they're already in the population and prey on the most vulnerable among us.
“Superbugs”: it sounds like a Hollywood blockbuster about space aliens, or maybe a Pixar film about a fun-loving gang of insects wearing capes.
If more and stronger action isn't taken soon to address the growing issue of superbugs like CRE, reports suggest we could face serious consequences: By 2050, these infections could kill 10 million people worldwide -- more than all types of cancer, combined.
The World Health Organization says we need to step up the fight against a dozen bacteria that are growing resistant to all the antibiotics we have to treat them.
Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics We are the first dedicated phage therapy center in North America, bringing innovative research and clinical practice to the field of medicine. Join us on our journey and witness a revolutionary wave of solutions to combat antibiotic resistance.
Stop Superbugs is a global health initiative led by the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC). We recognise that good work is already happening all around the world. Practical, local projects driven by passionate volunteers are helping to save lives.
This unique conference will present attendees with a complete view into the latest in combating multi-drug resistance, diagnostics and new focus on vaccine development for the prevention of nosocomial bacterial infections.
The Horikoshi superbugs project conducted a world-wide search for bacteria that thrive under extreme conditions of pH, salinity, and temperature.