May 24, 2014. Four Bacteria of the Apocalypse. NewScientist.
Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is growing. Existing drugs for TB cure only about half of those treated for MDR-TB. Only one new drug has been introduced in 40 years, despite global efforts.
MRSA – or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – has been joined by a staph that resists another last-resort drug, vancomycin. Livestock reared using antibiotics can develop MRSA infections. Such strains can spread among humans, as shown by recent human cases in Denmark even though it has banned antibiotic growth-promoters in livestock.
CRE – or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae – is a group of gut bacteria that resists carbapenems – antibiotics of last resort. One set of CRE genes was first seen in India in 2009 and has since been found around the world. The bacteria can cause urinary tract infections, and the resistant strain is making this widespread ailment untreatable.
Gonorrhoea – a sexual infection also known as “the clap” – is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Untreatable cases have emerged.
Jones, Tamera. 21 July 2014. Sewage treatment contributes to antibiotic resistance
Amos, G. C. A. Amos, et al. May 5, 2014. Waste water effluent contributes to the dissemination of CTX-M-15 in the natural environment, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy2014; 69: 1785 – 1791.
Wastewater treatment plants could be unwittingly helping to spread antibiotic resistance, say scientists. Their research suggests that processing human, farm and industrial waste all together in one place might be making it easier for bacteria to become resistant to a wide range of even the most clinically-effective antibiotics. With so many different types of bacteria coming together in sewage plants we could be giving them a perfect opportunity to swap genes that confer resistance, helping them live. This means antibiotic-resistant bacteria may be evolving much faster than they would in isolation.
The research, published in Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, shows that there are now reservoirs of highly resistant gut bacteria in the environment, threatening human and animal health.
We urgently need to find new ways to process waste more effectively so we don’t inadvertently contribute to the problem of drug-resistant bacteria.
Earlier studies have suggested that farming and waste processing methods contribute to reservoirs of resistant bacteria in the environment. But, until now, very few studies had looked at whether or not wastewater effluent contributes to the problem.
‘We’re on the brink of Armageddon and this is just contributing to it. Antibiotics could just stop working and we could all be colonized by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.’ Professor Elizabeth Wellington of the University of Warwick.
Mackenzie, D. June 16, 2012. WHO demands action on drug-resistant gonorrhoea. NewScientist.
Gonorrhoea, a sexually transmitted infection also known as “the clap”, is making a comeback – and this time it may be incurable. New strains have emerged that resist the last few antibiotics that still worked against the disease. In a rare public alert last week, the World Health Organization warned that highly resistant cases of gonorrhoea have now been detected in Japan, Europe and Australia. It is calling for a worldwide effort to track the superbug – and to develop new gonorrhoea drugs and vaccines.
That’s a slim hope. Between the limited profits to be made from drugs that cure infections and the previous success of antibiotics against gonorrhoea, there has been little investment in the disease. “There are no new therapeutic drugs in development,” says Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan of the WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research.
Yet epidemiological models show that the current official policies for managing gonorrhoea are virtually guaranteed to lead to a rebound in cases, and to antibiotic resistance.
Neisseria gonorrhoeae, also known as Gonococcus, infect an estimated 106 million people a year worldwide. The infection causes painful urination in men and can be symptomless in women, but left untreated it may cause painful pelvic inflammation and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy. It can cause blindness in babies, and makes it easier to contract HIV.
N. gonorrhoeae is now resistant to penicillin, and the subsequent families of antibiotics used to treat it. Now only a couple of third-generation cephalosporin antibiotics are left. But resistance to these has been creeping up, and last year N. gonorrhoeae resistant enough to be dubbed a “superbug” was reported in Japan. Worse, the models show that relying on one drug until resistance builds up, then switching to another – precisely what health agencies have done – causes resistance fastest.
But people who change partners such as sex workers and promiscuous communities of men who have sex with men, are likely to pass on the infection. Targeting such groups for treatment caused gonorrhoea infection rates to drop steeply in industrialized countries since the 1970s – but now they are climbing again.