Sunday, April 10, 2011

Most Significant Article You Haven't Read - Resistant Bacteria

I like reading the newspaper because the format allows browsing in a way that seems to alert me to interesting news in a way that browsing the internet never does. Friday's Wall Street Journal reprinted this article from

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in India Could Spread, Experts Say

A gene that helps bacteria resist nearly all antibiotics is present in bacteria in public water supplies in New Delhi, India, researchers have found.

NDM-1 now appears to be widespread in the environment and that points to the critical need for action to limit the global spread of NDM-1-producing bacteria, said Timothy Walsh, of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues.

The spread of such bacteria could surely change the world in ways both predictable and not. For example, the widespread presence of resistant bacteria will impact major surgery, which is dependent upon the ability of antibiotics to prevent infection. Will this decrease medical tourism to India? The widespread use of analgesics to relieve aches and pains has the ancillary effect of making bleeding harder to stop. Will we limit their use to help prevent infections? (Is there a connection? Maybe just for bleeding ulcers.) Will we see more "nanny state" efforts to enforce hygiene, since we know that politicians like nothing better than crises to impose new controls on people.

I believe that we should think about these issues from the perspective of those who wish to preserve freedom, as I know the forces of statism will seize the opportunity to impose controls. A companion article also points to other failings.

The pipeline of new antibiotics is essentially empty, posing acute huge dangers to health care and efforts against infectious diseases.

Some experts warn health-care provision is in danger of reverting back to a pre-antibiotic era in which hip replacements, care of preterm babies and advanced cancer treatment are no longer possible.

And why are no new drugs in the pipeline? I suspect that our very own FDA, which is getting ever more restrictive in its approval processes under Obama is partly to blame. (Ronald Balley details the way that the FDA afflicts the drug industry here.)

And also, why is this news getting so little attention? Could it be that we have become inured to scientific disaster news, because there has been so much of it? Maybe we don't trust scientists whose horrible discovery will lead to more grant money if they can hype their findings. Maybe this isn't the horrible story I thought after all. This is the unfortunate result of politicians controlling the purse strings for science.


  1. really interesting perspective on the FDA. This hasn't been on my radar at all.

  2. The Zombie Apocolypse approacheth!

  3. This doesn't fit the narrative.

    We're getting sick because of cattle being fed antibiotics, and because of alcohol hand-wash, and because medicine is getting too advanced and being used too much-- with a heavy implication that we should let old, sick people die.

    That is the narrative.

    For someplace far-off, squalid (sorry, India, but it's true-- you're getting better, but you're still rather ew on average), with problems about sewage in the water but who have access to rather high tech medical tools to have 'super-bugs'... dang.

    Shoot, I didn't know until recently that 'superbugs' were nothing new-- Winston Churchill had an infection that was resistant to penicillin and had to have some new version used on it.

  4. An antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the New Dehli water supply? No way.

  5. Forgot to add- the way we do know to breed super bugs is to do a half-tailed job of using whatever kills them. Say, taking antibiotics until you feel better, or run out of money.....