Combating SuperBugs

Superbugs are the heroic superheroes among the bacterial colonies who valiantly fight the relentless onslaught of newer and more powerful antibiotic ravages in a metaphorical epic woven in contemporary modern warfare. In short, it is a multi-drug resistant bacteria which emerges victorious in its battle against all possible generations of antibiotics. The resistance makes it impossible to vanquish them with the result that the superbugs gain an upper hand and succeed in subjugating man- the highest evolved living organism of planet Earth thus falls helpless at the feet of these one-celled organisms!

To understand superbugs, let us first understand what pathogens are. A pathogen is any biological entity which disturbs the harmony of the human body and causes diseases. It can be a virus, a bacteria, a fungus or a parasite. A bacteria is a single celled organism which has genetic material suspended in its cytoplasm. There are millions of species of bacteria on Earth, hundreds of them living peacefully in the human body and a few of them which cause diseases.

Antibiotics are substances which kill bacteria or inhibit their growth. Antibiotics are naturally produced by micro-organisms and since Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, they are synthetically manufactured in laboratories to aid in fighting off diseases. When bacteria are susceptible to antibiotics, the disease is contained and the patient is brought back to health.

The problem arises when the bacteria are no longer affected when the antibiotic is introduced within the human body. And then the worst nightmare comes true both for the treating physician as well as the patient. Since the antibiotic fails to kill the bacteria, they flourish, further undermining the health of the patient and the disease progresses with no sign of abating. This is a critical situation meriting application of multiple drugs to which the bacterial resistance continues to develop resulting in multi-drug resistant bacteria or ‘superbugs.’

How does resistance develop?

‘Survival of the fittest’ is the basic philosophy of creation and sustenance. It applies to all organisms and every living species has developed its own tactics for the same. This principle facilitates evolution of the species and one can say that development of antibiotic resistance is a survival pattern of the bacteria. It occurs due to changes in the DNA (genetic mutations) or due to transfer of resistant genes through plasmids (channels) from one bacteria to another. The bacteria thus acquires resistance to different antibiotics and survives!

What gives them their might?

Apart from natural occurrences there are certain human factors involved which aid in giving bacteria their “invincible” status.

  • Indiscriminate use of antibiotics
  • Over the counter prescriptions
  • Prolonged administration beyond the scheduled time
  • Non-compliance of the patient to the therapeutic dose suggested
  • Hospital infections
  • Infections contracted from animals

Our Responsibility

Against this backdrop, the onus lies on every individual concerned, be he the treating physician or the relief seeking patient

Mitigating the factors under our control by restricting widespread antibiotic use can be the foremost step in this war against the superbugs.

Maintaining health and hygiene especially in hospital premises.

Adequate protection of those handling livestock to restrict spread.

Improving general immunity of the patient is the cornerstone of any rational therapeutic system and all measures should be undertaken to ensure that in the fight against the superbugs, the human body Is strengthened by the medicines given and not depleted of energy and vital resources which help it fight them!

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