In recent years, we’ve heard again and again that we’re in the middle of some kind of pandemic and millions of people will die. In the end, most of these big pathogen scares don’t do a portion of the harm that we are told they will. When you get right down to it, it’s pretty obvious that these kinds of stories are just used by news networks to boost views. But a real pandemic might be on its way. It’s not Ebola or a new strain of AIDS. It’s drug-resistant bacteria.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO), has issued a warning that if basic hospital hygiene does not improve and if the use of antibiotics is not curtailed, the global healthcare industry could experience a dramatic and deadly breakout of drug-resistant bacteria.
According to Webmd.com, “Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It’s tougher to treat than most strains of Staphylococcus aureus — or staph — because it’s resistant to some commonly used antibiotics.”
MRSA is spread by contact from skin to skin, or skin to object to skin. It is estimated that about 2% of people carry the bacteria and remain uninfected. In hospitals, however, doctors and nurses going from room to room can easily and unknowingly pass the bacteria from one patient to others. Even if most people do not become infected, someone inevitably is. Once MRSA takes hold, it is extremely difficult to kill.
The OECD said that drug-resistant bacteria or “superbugs” have the potential to kill as many as 2.4 million people by the year 2050. In 2015 alone, drug-resistant bacteria were responsible more than 30,000 deaths in Europe. The group further warned that if measures are not taken to stop the spread of the infectious bacteria, it could cost a yearly average of $3.5 billion per nation to fight back against it.
Michele Cecchin, the group’s Health Leader said, “AMR costs more than the flu, more than HIV, more than tuberculosis. And it will cost even more if countries don’t put into place actions to tackle this problem.”
The root of this global problem is the overuse, indeed the abuse of antibiotics. It has become the standard to use antibiotics in cases where a person’s natural immunity is more than capable of fighting a pathogen. People are given antibiotics just for the purpose of shortening the life cycle of an infection. In the end, this inevitably kills most of a bacterial colony, but it leaves the strongest cells alive. These are flushed from the system, but they do not die. Many times they continue to live on the host as MRSA.
It’s easy to understand. It’s the simple and predictable result of killing all but the strongest out of any microbial population. The predictable result is that the population will become stronger, more robust, more resilient, and harder to kill.
Antibiotics should only be used when a person cannot fight off an infection naturally. But we have a medical industry that makes money hand over fist selling drugs that reduce the discomfort of patients suffering from minor infections. In 2015, the global antibiotics market was evaluated at just under $40 billion.
It is expected that the growth rates and mobility of these superbugs will increase by 47 times by the year 2030. At that point, minor cuts that would ordinarily not even need treatment might become dangerous or fatal. The OECD predicts that by 2070, second and third line antibiotics will become 70% ineffective against MRSA and other superbugs. These are the strongest antibiotics and are kept in reserve for the worst types of infection. If these drugs become ineffective, people will die.
The way to stop this growing threat is simple. Doctors should prescribe fewer antibiotics. They should only give these kinds of drugs when they are absolutely necessary. They should start to look at food and other natural ways of treating many types of infection. Second, they need to take more care with their personal hygiene. It is has been shown that a common vehicle for MRSA is a doctor’s necktie.
Medical professionals are killing people by spreading disease. And it is a well-known fact that medical error is the third largest cause of death for Americans- and these are just the errors the medical community will admit to. As the medical community continues to willfully nosedive toward a pandemic- your best bet might be to stay out of the hospital.