If you haven't heard about MSRA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) yet, it's a strain of bacteria that can't be killed by common antibiotic drugs. Antibiotic drugs have been over-used or mis-used in various situations, and bacteria are evolving resistance to the drugs we've been using for decades. Without antibiotics, healthcare would be thrust back into the dark ages. No surgeries could be done safely without antibiotics. Very common infections might kill off people regularly, instead of being the mild inconvenience that they are today. Check out these links for more info on superbugs and how we can deal with them.
- Surprisingly, we're still finding new antibiotics in nature -- like teixobactin which was found in soil-dwelling bacteria that had never been cultured before. This is a new class of antibiotic compound that bacteria don't seem to be able to develop a resistance to. It disrupts how bacterial cell walls are made, but unfortunately, it's only effective against certain kinds of microbes. Also, it won't become a drug approved for human use for several years. [url]
- Thankfully, there are a few different strategies for dealing with a world that has developed bacteria resistant to all of our currently known antibiotics. We could 1) take advantage of bacteriophages (viruses that kill bacteria), 2) use bacteriocins from bacteria that already fight off microbes in nature (and modify them for our own purposes), 3) design DNA mimics that block specific bacterial genes necessary for reproduction, 4) use gene editing techniques (CRISPR) to artificially induce immunity in hosts, and there may be other tactics we haven't yet discovered/invented... [url]
- Topic-Qx is a solution of plant materials that claims to have antibacterial properties from anti-quorum sensing compounds found in a jungle. This could be another example of a way to attack intractable bacteria, but many anti-quorum sensing compounds are hard to formulate into nice shelf-stable drugs. That's not to say we'll never find one that isn't.... [url]
- Before antibiotics, one out of nine people who got a skin infection died, and three out of ten people with pneumonia didn't survive. We already live in a post-antibiotic world of superbugs, but it would be horrible to revert back to death statistics like those before the 1940s. [url]
If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post