Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Last Antibiotic Has Fallen

Resistance to last-resort antibiotic has now spread across globe
Bacteria resistant to polymyxins, a last resort antibiotic for some kinds of common infections like E. Coli, if they resist all other types of antibiotics.

The discovery of this gene means that some bacteria are now able to become "pan-resistant", or "superbugs". That would mean that these bacteria are resistant to all types of antibiotics, and cannot be treated unless new types of antibiotics are developed.

Worldwide Circulation
Back in November, bacteria resistant to polymyxin had been discovered in China. However, this recent discovery of this bacteria in Denmark has lead to worries that it has gone global, and will soon be widespread.

According to Frank Aarestrup of the Danish Technical University, the genes found in Denmark and China are the exact same, suggesting that the mutation had traveled instead of popping up separately. Although they don't know where it originated, it is suspected that it originated from China, where the majority of polymyxyin is used.

The Role Lifestock Plays
Antibiotic resistant bacteria arises when a certain bacteria develops a resistant to an antibiotic by chance, and remains the only bacteria to continue to proliferate due to antibiotics killing off the rest. Thus, the more antibiotics are used, the more likely it is that superbugs will develop.

However, farmers currently use 12 thousand tons of colistin a year with agriculture. Such widespread use of antibiotics greatly increases the risk of superbugs like the one discovered developing.

1. What do you think should be done about the increasing abundance of superbugs?
2. What do you think should be done about the abuse of antibiotics in agriculture?


Adjon Tahiraj said...


I think we need to put more money on research into developing a new antibiotic of some sort that can stop the superbug. I think the superbug, like you said, will become a big problem soon if nothing is done about it. I think countries need to collaborate with their research and work together toward a solution.

I think we need to gradually pass laws that will limit the use of antibiotics in agriculture. We still need antibiotics to be able to grow our food and crops, but having an abuse of it ultimately could lead to more threats as the one that has aroused in the resent past.

Christopher Griffis said...

I remember learning about bacterial resistance in AP Bio and it is definitely scary that there are things that we use to be able cure becoming stronger. Yes we should research into newer antibiotics, however I do not think that we should allow these antibiotics to be distributed widespread into our livestock. Although this would cure our livestock and have food, there would just be a super duper bacteria or something. Therefor rather then just developing new antibiotic after another, which would take way too long to combat the constantly evolving bacteria, we should start having stricter restrictions on the cultivation of livestock so that this bacteria does not develop in the first place. The reason many cows or chicken become infected in the first place is because of the horrible conditions they are raised and then killed. If there are safer conditions for livestock there would be less need for the use of antibiotics and less super bacteria to be afraid of.

Nevan Samadhana said...

I see Adjon's point in placing more funds into research towards a new antibiotic that can stop the superbug but I believe that it will only feed the cycle and the creation of a new superbug will occur after a while. I think that people have almost abused the convenience of using antibiotics and that they should be used as little as possible to prevent the weakening of the drug. Instead of just trying to make more antibiotics, we should explore different methods to combating issues like the one that farmers have by maybe placing incentives for farmers to not use so many antibiotics or raising the price of the antibiotics.

Horace He said...

I agree with what people have said. A often proposed idea is to keep some antibiotics as actually "last resort", and enforce it throughout the entire world. Countries like Denmark already labeled the current antibiotic as for humans only, but countries like China didn't, and it spread from there. Thus, by limiting antibiotic usage until it was used for things like saving human lives, bacteria are extremely unlikely to develop resistance.

Another potential solution is something called antibiotic cycling. The idea is that if you stop using an antibiotic for a while, the bacteria would eventually lose its resistance to the antibiotic as the gene for resistance makes it slightly less efficient. However, this kinda program is really hard to follow.

Alton Olson said...

Chris mentioned the abundancy of antibiotics when used on livestock, but another area where antibiotic-resistant bacteria are developed is actually in hospitals. This just serves as another example that anywhere that antibiotics are heavily used, antibiotic-resistant bacteria will develop. We need to control the use of antibiotics to prevent the growth of these bacteria.

Lea Tan said...

I don't think we can develop an antibiotic to fight off the superbug because in the process, we'll only create more superbugs resistant to that antibiotic. This has become a problem because we use antibiotics so often these days, and the bacteria have evolved over time to become resistant. Thus, we should probably find alternatives to antibiotic use. I don't know how well herbal antibiotics work, but people could try using those. Furthermore, in the past couple of years, scientists have been using restriction enzymes --bacteriophage enzymes--to fight off viruses.

Anna Joshi said...

As Alton stated, antibiotic resistant bacteria has also developed in hospitals. I believe that controlling the use of antibiotics in this environment will help prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria from developing. Further, I believe that simply following the rules on the prescribed antibiotic can help. Often, many people cease to take their antibiotic after symptoms go away despite doctor’s commands to continue on until the medicine is completely done. This can cause the bacteria to resurface and come back even stronger if not killed completely.

Alex Binsacca said...

Kind of going along with the flow I too believe that we as citizens of the world everywhere must learn to limit our use of antibiotics until it is absolutely needed. The obvious reason being that if not done then we could end up with a world polluted with incurable bacteria. Hence I think that we have to find other methods to deal with the growing resistance of bacteria towards antibiotics. I also rather find Horace's idea of antibiotic cycling a really interesting solution. The fact of the matter is we have to cut down on our use of antibiotics by a drastic amount.

Nicholas Tong1 said...

According to BBC News, there are "very few new antibiotics in development amid a global spread of resistant bacteria." That said, surely it sounds like a great idea to invest more money towards research?

With patents and other privacy issues, it may not be that simple. Pharmaceutical companies often keep drugs "secret," or less accessible to the public in order to preserve the drug's potency, among other reasons. Even if we do decide to invest more money on drug research, it does not necessarily mean that the drug would be more accessible to the public; it is ultimately up to the drug company. Assuming the drug companies do release the drug, patent rights would allow for the pharmaceutical company to charge any price it desires, thus further increasing the pharmaceutical industry's leverage over the overall economy.

Ultimately, I just want to put up some food for thought before we all agree that we should invest more money towards research. I also understand, however, that at this current state of affairs, it is impossible to survive without the way we use antibiotics today.
On the long term (as it'd be unrealistic to assume that this solution can be enacted tomorrow), I believe more preventative measures should be enacted to prevent the dangers of more superbugs. For example, enacting international agreements detailing stricter antibiotic use, and stricter trade regulations to ensure that infected goods/materials are not transported worldwide.


Jessica Westmont said...

It's difficult because we do not want our foods to be distributed with tons bacteria, but if we use antibiotics to rid the bacteria of this food we get these even more worse bacteria. Most times farmers are too quick to resort to polymyxins and give the bacteria the power to become immune. Some bacteria is okay, and can even be healthy so if no antibiotics are needed, none should be used. These super bugs are increasing from year to year and are putting people in the hospital. It is not worth trying to get rid of all the bacteria in food only to get these horrible "pan-resistant" bacteria. We need to only use antibiotics as needed or find an alternative like Lea mentioned above.