Will the superbug be our downfall?

The super bug. You know, the deadly supervirus or superbacteria that will take over the world and kill us all. Or something. Sometimes I think that one of those superheroes¬†supervillains microscopic killing machines will end up being our ultimate downfall, but other times I’m not so sure. Sometimes I think it’s more likely that someone will genetically engineer one of these superviruses and then unleash it into an air vent at Disneyland or something.

Other times, I think it might be more likely that our current dependence on antibiotics and other medications–and equal dismissal of the importance of finishing the damn prescription–will instead breed a bacteria that’s truly invincible (well, based on current medical technologies, anyway).

For example: there is currently a rising threat of drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Yeah, remember TB? Newsflash: it ain’t extinct.

Based on this article from Bloomberg, there are a growing number of cases of drug-resistant TB strains across multiple countries. So what does this mean?

Pretty simple, really. It means that in a lot of countries around the world (particularly in Southeast Asia), there are a lot of people who have found that their unwanted TB tenants are resistant to second-line drug treatments.

So, you know, crap. Just when you think you’re doing okay and you won’t keel over and die, you realize that the universe has been laughing at you all this time. “Surprise!” says the universe. “YOU WILL DIE ANYWAY.”

Well, okay, maybe not. And I know there a lot more factors that contribute to the drug-resistant TB strains than not finishing your first-line treatment (if that is, in fact, even a factor).

But still. Drug-resistant TB isn’t exactly good news. Since, you know, it kills a lot of people. I got the tuberculosis vaccine ages ago (so says my mom), because I was born in Southeast Asia and my parents didn’t want me to catch TB and die. Which was nice of them. But my kids don’t have the vaccine. Neither does my husband. Which means TB could still be a pain in my family’s ass if we ever go visit relatives in Ye Olde Country. (So could malaria. And dengue fever. And, um, a lot of other things.)

And this new drug-resistant TB can be a pain in the world’s ass, since it can’t be killed, what with it being resistant to drugs and all. And THAT could be a big problem indeed.

What do you think is the bigger threat: drug-resistant strains of current viruses and bacteria, or a new superbug?


2 thoughts on “Will the superbug be our downfall?

  1. What about both? A drug resistant superbug? That would suck on so many levels.

    I remember having my TB jab at school. It was one mother of a needle; it was like a rite of passage to have it without wincing. One kid fainted.

  2. The drug resistant strain of TB is a very real and definite threat. My Dad used to be in charge of the maintainence of a large London hospital and one of his biggest headaches was dealing with the isolation rooms which had to be maintained at a positive air-pressure to help keep any bugs inside of the room.

    But the growth of this resistant strain lays more in social policy changes, at least here in the UK. As I understand it TB was a notifiable disease and as such people catching it were required to be hospitalised until such time as they could be healed. Which meant the full course of drugs were administered.

    Problems began to arise when this policy was changed and especially amongst the homeless community who were especially vulnerable to TB along with an influx of people from the Indian sub-continent who bought new strains of the disease with them which added to the problem.

    A homeless person would be given a course of treatment but would be more likely, for all sorts of reasons, to only take the pills until the stage where they felt better. Then they would stop and thus give the disease a chance to become resistant.

    Personally I think that if this new strain of TB did break out Government would act rather swiftly so I dont think it does represent a real threat.

    For me I think we need to be looking more to what happened with Asbestos. When it first came out it was hailed as a miracle product that would make our world much safer to live in. At the Science Museum in London they even encourage school children to play with it ! Now we know the potential dangers and I know of several people who it has killed.

    So personally I would urge caution about anything new that we get told is going to be the saviour of us all. Thats not to say we should suspect everything new but science can be a lot more uncertain than people would like to make out and time and time again history show us that invention can come back and bite us all on the arse.

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