Apart from the creation of superbugs, overuse of antibiotics has negative consequences including killing many of our beneficial bacteria. In the grand scheme of things, little is known about the bacteria we live with, and how they individually as a species, and collectively in combinations forming biofilms, get affected by various exposures to our antibiotics. Insufficient research is being conducted to help us find the answers.
Some research has suggested that antibiotic use may play a role in conditions that lead to obesity, Type 1 Diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies and even asthma, a common chronic airway disorder. Patient populations suffering from all of these chronic diseases appear to be increasing in prevalence, but very little is being done to understand if anything in contributing to all of these conditions as a group instead of just individually.
In agriculture, antibiotics have been used as “growth promoters” enabling farmers to increase their livestock yield, as their animals can gain more weight with less food. The influence of these antibiotics on the livestock we eat is likely to have some impact on our own bodies but this field has not yet been adequately investigated primarily due to lack of financial motivation. In Europe, where usage of antibiotics in livestock as growth promoters has been banned, it was determined that the same dollars spent on extra food resulted in the same growth as yielded by the additional antibiotics.
Given that antibiotics are a critical part of our medicinal arsenal, it is not likely that antibiotics will be replaced any time soon. However, it is important to start asking the questions and dedicate more resources to learning more about how the antibiotics we use directly and indirectly are truly affecting us. Once we learn more about this impact, then we can start to make progress in influencing the development of new alternatives and better approaches to antibiotic usage.
Let’s step into a time machine for a moment. Acquire some plutonium, unlock the Delorean, rev it up to 88 miles per hour and we’re good to go. Destination: 1770.
The late 18th century was a pretty great place. Nations were being thought up and defended, women piled their hair into fantastic curly creations complete with white powder and men could sport walking sticks without looking like a try-hard hipster.
Sounds great right?
Unfortunately, it was also a time when the result of contracting a minor cold was often death.
Back to the future… (get it?).
This is the scenario (albeit somewhat exaggerated) that awaits us as a society if we do not tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance, according to the top health official in the UK.
Sallie Davies, chief medical officer for England, called for a global fight against microbial, or antibiotic, resistance, as well as a push to fill a drug “discovery void” to treat mutating superbug infections like MRSA, the National Post reported Wednesday.
According to the same report, new antibiotics are few and far between, and only a handful have been marketed in the past few decades. This means that when a new strain of resistant bacteria emerges, there is very little we can do to treat against it.
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Traditionally, disease has been presented as an army of creepily crawly microbes, lurking on every surface and wafting through the air, waiting to jump up onto our skin or sneak into our nostrils to infect us.
But in an eternally ironic twist of circumstances, the very thing that we use to fight off the bacterial invader might actually be our most fickle foe. According to the medical journel Lancet, antibiotic resistance is now “a global health concern.”
With friends like that, who needs enemies?
The increased exposure to all sorts of antibiotics in our everyday lives has made it so that bacteria that used to be wiped out by a dose of antibiotics have developed resistant strains.
One of the most common – and most serious – of these is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the resistant strain of the staph bacteria most commonly found in health-care settings. Read more »
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that healthcare-associated infections cost the United States approximately $45 billion and claim the lives of thousands of patients annually. Surveillance of infections have become an enormous challenge for the healthcare systems across the world, and have become increasingly problematic due to antibiotic resistance. So which country is leading the world in this area?
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In an attempt to find new ways to prevent cases of MRSA, researchers have been working to develop a new vaccine. Several pharmaceutical companies have attempted to create vaccines for MRSA in the past, but such endeavors have not been successful. The main reason for this is that it is not known what makes individuals immune to the disease. Current research into a MRSA vaccine is in the very early stages, and even if a successful vaccine was developed, it would take years to receive approval.
We often blog about the importance of preventing surgical site infections. An effective vaccine to combat MRSA would be a major milestone in the fight against antibiotic resistance. This is because powerful antibiotics are used to treat active MRSA infections, and each time such therapies are used, the more likely it becomes for the bacteria to develop resistance. Thus, the most optimal treatment would be to prevent MRSA before it occurs. If a successful vaccine was to be developed, it would likely be given prior to surgical procedures, and in those with compromised immune systems. But, why wait years for a MRSA vaccine to be developed when there are simple solutions available right now? Read more »
As antibiotic resistance becomes an increasing issue, researchers are busy investigating natural alternatives to fight deadly infections. Researchers in Liverpool for example, investigated the effects of using honey as an antibacterial agent for post-operative wound care in the fight against MRSA. Patients that had honey applied to their wounds had 36% fewer incidences of infection, and spent around 25% less time in the hospital compared to those who were not administered honey.
Lead researcher, Dr. Val Robson, explained that honey has antibacterial properties because of its high sugar content, presence of hydrogen peroxide, and low water content. Robson has since dubbed the honey utilized in this study “Medihoney.”
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There are a number of studies that have demonstrated conclusively that eliminating a large percentage of the bacteria in the nose of a patient just prior to a major surgery can reduce the number of surgical site infections (SSIs). The main culprit seems to be Staphylococcus aureus which thrives in the warm, moist undisturbed environment in the nose. Whether it is the highly antibiotic resistant form of S. aureus, MRSA (a known superbug) or the antibiotic susceptible version MSSA, these species of bacteria are responsible for the majority of surgical site infections.
While MSSA is responsible for a greater number of SSIs, MRSA is responsible for the deadly and very costly infections. Some MRSA infections can cost up to $100,000. On average however, SSIs cost anywhere between $11,000 – $35,000, add on average an extra 8 hospital days, and can result in 5 times higher readmission rates. Whichever way one looks at it, SSIs are a huge burden on the medical systems around the world. Some estimates put this cost as much as $10 billion annually in the US alone.
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Over the coming year, the world will learn more about our MRSAid™ photodisinfection technology and its ability to prevent surgical site infections. The last patients in the year long quality improvement program at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) will be treated next month, giving us a chance to look retrospectively at how surgical site infections were affected at this major hospital. This program, involving over 5,000 patients at VGH, sought to reduce infections in all patients undergoing cardio, vascular, neurological, thoracic, breast, spinal and orthopaedic surgeries. Data from this analysis is expected in the late fall and results are expected to be announced at Infection Control Conferences in 2013.
People who carry MRSA or MSSA are at much greater risk of self infection when they are immunocompromised and weakened after surgery. Up to 30% of patients are simply unable to defend themselves from the tenacious bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus which lie dormant in the nose, waiting for opportunities to invade the body. Eliminating the bacteria carried in the nose prior to surgery has been proven to reduce the rate of surgical site infections. From a number of other studies (including Bode et al “Preventing SSIs In Nasal Carriers of Staph”), we have learned that eliminating both MRSA and MSSA from the nose prior to surgery reduces surgical site infections (SSIs) by up to 56% and total healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) by up to 79% in non-surgical admissions.
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Everyone is looking for a better way to save these kids. Every kid we take care of, it’s like our own child; that’s why we were here - Dr. John Bradley, Chief of Infectious Disease at Rady Children’s Hospital
A Carmel Valley private school was closed last month due to the possibility of one of the students having a MRSA infection. All campus activities were shut down and classes cancelled on a Thursday afternoon until being reopened the following Monday. It was suspected a female student returning from a retreat that very day to the school had potentially been infected. A letter posted on the campus website announced that the private school would be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized by trained personnel. “We feel that we are best serving the interests and well-being of our students, families and employees by taking this precaution.”
According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MRSA rates have been on the decline in hospital settings in the last decade while community-acquired cases have increased a notable degree. Just ten years ago MRSA infections were very rare in San Diego, but as Dr. John Bradley points out, the disease is becoming more “resistant and more virulent than ever.” MRSA infections can take the outward appearance of physically damaged skin: painful red areas, a raised bump, abscesses and open sores. MRSA can also induce symptoms of fever and chills. Early detection and treatment, especially in children, reduces the potential severity MRSA as it can be life-threatening and often lead to limb amputation. The invasive cases are extremely dangerous as they can cause a child to die within a few days.
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We’ve blogged in the past about MRSA being found on grocery meat in Detroit. Now, the same problem is occurring in Iowa, Minnesota, and New Jersey. A a recent study published this past January revealed that 64% of pork samples from grocery stores in these areas were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus. Of these, more than 6% tested positive for MRSA, the drug-resistant strain of Staph.
Tara Smith, an epidemiologist at the University of Iowa and one of the study’s contributing authors notes the uncertainty of the source of contamination. The molecular typing from these samples are shown as a combination of both “human” and “pig” strains. This suggests that the bacteria may be from both the farm and the people who handle the products.
As most of you know, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most deadly and resistant strains of Staph bacteria. According to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, more than 90,000 people develop a serious MRSA infection every year and up to 20% of the infected population die. Of those that survive, many face incredibly difficult recovery periods that often involve more medication and surgery. Read more »