Superbugs on the rise in EU

Oh shit.

Our last line of defence against hospital ‘superbugs’ is faltering, with resistance to the antibiotics usually used to tackle intractable pneumonia and urinary tract infections on the rise and spreading across European countries.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Solna, Sweden, announced last week that 29 new cases of bacteria resistant to the broad-spectrum carbapenem antibiotics had been reported across a total of six European Union (EU) countries between early October 2010 and the end of March 2011.

Tackling antibiotic resistance “is now critical, with the establishment of resistance to the last line of antibiotics being reported to the ECDC from several European countries for the first time”, Marc Sprenger, ECDC director, told reporters at a press conference. “Failure to act will mean that treatment options for patients will be severely limited.”

I can’t help but think that our overuse of antibiotics in stuff that really doesn’t need it, like pretty much every hand soap or dish soap, not to mention the overuse of antibiotics in raising livestock, has contributed in no small manner to this problem.

Superbugs on the rise in EU

8 thoughts on “Superbugs on the rise in EU

  1. 3

    Evolution in action.

    I must, however, pick a nit or two.

    Soaps do not contain antibiotics. They MAY contain topical anti-bacterials, (commonly various alcohols) but I think most do not. Bugs MAY be developing resistance to anti-bacterials, but that wouldn’t confer them resistance to prescription antibiotics.

    A bigger problem is the massive overuse of antibiotics in the livestock industry. And in medicine, where patients demand (and often get) antibiotics for conditions they won’t help, such as the common cold.

    My wife nearly died two years ago due to septic shock from massive urinary and pulmonary infections — ironically, from bacteria we all carry around in our GI system with no problem. She was saved by antibiotics. This is a really important issue. Please don’t mis-state it.

  2. 4

    I had thought that there was something contentious about this, but misremembered the contention. Evidently, some studies suggest that using triclosan in hand soap drives amoxicillin resistance, but some sources say there’s no evidence for this. I don’t know what to believe on this front, but certainly there’s no point in using triclosan in hand soap if mere handwashing removes the same amount of microbes.

    I am thankful that modern medical science kept your wife alive, and hope we don’t squander the ability to kill the microbes that have no problem with killing us.

  3. 5

    I am thankful that modern medical science kept your wife alive, and hope we don’t squander the ability to kill the microbes that have no problem with killing us.

    Amen to that. I’ll have to read up on the triclosan thing.

  4. 6

    Prayer used to work in Jesus’ time, when diseases were caused by demons, but they have since developed immunity (mostly due to people praying for stuff like winning a game, and saying grace before meals)

  5. Art

    I suspect that some time in the future the use of last-line antibiotics will be limited to hospitals where the patient can be placed in biological isolation that keeps the antibiotic in a confined and well controlled area. Everything potentially exposed to the antibiotic will be incinerated on-site. This includes all body fluids and wastes.

    Bacteria exposed to dilute solutions of an antibiotic will evolve to counter most any antibiotic. It would have taken much longer if we had kept the antibiotics more isolated, used only in those cases really necessary, and avoided broadcasting them far, wide, and in great quantities. We frittered away out advantage for short term gain. So it seems like drastic actions are going to be required.

    Most antibiotics are excreted in feces and urine not broken down. Which makes the worlds sewage treatment plants and waterways into gymnasiums for training stronger, better, more resistant germs. Add in antibiotics in animal feed and you have what amounts to a massive training ground for disease.

    Isolate the person taking antibiotics, and their wastes, from the environment until the course of treatment has been completed and the antibiotics flushed from their systems and you limit the ability of the bacteria to adapt.

    It won’t be cheap or easy, only slightly more cheap and easier than not having a few last-chance antibiotics that still work, but I suspect we will soon be seeing such specialized medical facilities built and used.

  6. 8

    Resistance to antibiotics can be expensive (although I’m sure some resistances are not) in terms of ability to survive when not under attack by antibiotics. Thus I would expect a general loss of resistance in circumstances where antibiotics are not used.

    I’d also expect some residual features to stay in the population, making it quicker to regain the resistance.

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