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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The fight against super bug infections

In the last decade scientific ingenuity has begun to fall behind the power of the simple bacteria. Once thought to be managed by man’s wonder drugs, deadly bacterial infections have made a stunning come back with a series of ever tougher strains that are making hospitals dangerous just to visit, not to mention being admitted too. MRSA( methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are killer Staph infections that are becoming resistant or immune to an increasing large percentage of our antibiotic drugs, mostly due to our misuse of them. MRSAs have been reported country wide but the Montreal area hospitals have had a number of serious outbreaks and some deaths.

So what can we do?


Well one avenue of attack is that of bacteriophage (Phage) which are virus like organisms that attack specific bacteria. The first time I heard the word Phage it was a plague that infected the Vidians on Star Trek Voyager.

It turns out however that Phages do exist but don’t attack people like they do in Star Trek. They can however, if targeted correctly be highly effective in fighting off a variety of infections including Staph infections and Gangrene as mentioned in this BBC article Phages enter your system, attack the bacteria, reprogram them to reproduce more bacteria killing Phages rather ran self replicate and then they die off when all the bacteria are gone; No complications or side effects.

This technology was heavily researched and widely used during the Soviet era when they did not have the access to as many antibiotics as the west did. Phages were actually used before antibiotics but the ease of taking a pill, the early difficulty in targeting the correct Phage to a specific infection and the problems drug companies would have trying to make a profit on a non patented medical treatment made Phages virtually unknown in the west.

I've heard it from a wheelchair bound friend that many people who have suffered bed sores that won't heal go to Russia for Phage treatments, and it works where other treatments do not. We need this medical technology but the difficulty of patenting a living organism makes investment by western drug companies doubtful. Universities and Governments should step up and start this research now while we still have some antibiotics that work.

Another weapon in the arsenal against infections is silver. Silver has been revered throughout the ages for it’s ability to heal wounds and clear up infections. A silver coin placed in unpasteurized milk was said to stay fresh longer, silver coins were placed on wounds to fend off infections, and even today silver sulfadiazine is the best treatment to keep burn wounds infection free. There is however considerable danger in the recent trend of impregnating clothes, plastics and surfaces with nano silver because it is toxic to aquatic life and will eventually wash into the water shed.

There have also been recent experiments showing that the addition of silver to existing antibiotics may enhance their effectiveness and make long discarded drugs usable again. While new resistances may arise this will give us new tools, for the present at least. Silver based drugs are even more dangerous to aquatic life since they will be flushed from our systems directly into a lake or ocean. Considering the levels of antibiotics found in some waste water I have no doubt toxic levels of silver would soon be found.

For those who want to go the sticky method, honey has also been shown to have antibiotic effects when applied directly to a wound. Some tests show it is as good or better than standard treatments vs MRSAs. Honey has always been know for these properties and has been used for wounds throughout history, once again like maggots and silver it was pushed aside for profit.

There is also the possibilities that completely new antibiotics will be created as well. Will these newer stronger drugs be beaten by bacteria? yes eventually. Will they have more reactions and side effects than milder drugs? quite possibly. Will they be tools of corporate greed or healing? you decide.

There is not going to be one magic bullet like we assumed in the early years of antibiotic. Tomorrow's answer will be a much more laborious matching of phages to bacteria, and a return to ancient knowledge pushed aside for profit making patent drugs. Hospitals will need more maintenance staff, increased cleaning with harsher agents and there will need to be greater restrictions on the endless parade of visitors through our hospitals. Piercing, tattooing, scaring, branding and cosmetic surgery will be things to avoid not collect and relish.Recommend this Post

1 comment:

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