Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Drug resistance making some common diseases incurable

In a sense the world may be killing itself with medicine. The same discoveries that have extended the life span of humans may be turning into an evolutionary killer.
If Hollywood were telling the story the plot would have people turning into Zombies. Wait, they already did that, in “World War Z.”
In that story scientists were forced to use a curable virus like meningitis to defeat Zombies who otherwise were difficult to exterminate.
Scientists have been predicting for more than 20 years what the World Health Organization says has happened. Drug resistant diseases have been found in every country on the planet.
Drug resistance has even reached the Third World, brought by aid groups trying to help.
The WHO report released Thursday says drug resistance is showing up “in every region of the world,” the BBC reported.
Even a common disease like gonorrhea cannot be treated in some developed countries. More than one million daily contract the disease.
Antimicrobial resistance “threatens the achievements of modern medicine,” reports the study released by the WHO, Science News reports.
Andrew Read, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, says the WHO has alerted the world but has no plan to deal with the problem.
"I think it's scary how bad the antibiotic surveillance is, given the seriousness of the problem,” said Dr. Read.
Doctors contribute to the problem by using antibiotics too often and patients by not using the full course of the antibiotic pills they receive. Both help the diseases to survive in a stronger form.
Dr. Marlene Zuk, an evolutionary biologist, says people need to understand how germs survive if they want to go to war with them. In many cases what she calls “mechanical” solutions like washing work better because they kill all the germs.
She said saying the germs develop resistance is inaccurate because the resistance was always there, but antibiotics have killed out the majority of germ cells leaving only the anti-resistant ones.
In a column in the New York Times she wrote: In contrast, although soap and water don’t completely annihilate the bacteria either, they aren’t selective. The bacteria that remain are genetically similar to the ones that went swirling down the drain, and so their offspring are equally vulnerable to the next scrubbing. It’s like the difference between ethnic cleansing and dropping a bomb on a city; the population will look very different following one compared to the other, and using a bomb once doesn’t compromise the ability to use one again.

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