We first heard of them when the war in Iraq started seven years ago. Soldiers wounded in battle would come home with a strange infection – diseases that would just not yield to any antibiotic the doctors had. News of bacteria that are resistant to all drugs, has been picking up ever since, with the CDC putting out alarming statistics every now and then, like the one that says that nearly 100,000 patients at hospitals die each year in this country, from strange bacterial infections that laugh at the strongest drugs we throw at them. Another statistic from Europe too, says that there are about 16,000 dead each year in their hospitals from these. And then there are the horror stories we hear from her friends and relatives.
This comes into play especially when major body intrusive surgeries such as transplants are conducted. Transplanting organs opens the body to whatever atmosphere exists in the surgery room. Whether bladder, kidney, liver or other urological transplant procedure, the risks are more substantial that less intrusive surgeries. Even if transplant is not required, the intrusion is severe for internal organs as shown in this video:
Take my father for instance; he was a healthy 80-year-old man, who loved to go on 5 mile walks every day. He just has this lump on his ankle, and he had to go in, for a simple biopsy. They just punched out a little sample of flesh from his ankle, and since he is over 80, kept him in overnight for observation. The wound never quite healed, and ever since he came home, he kept having to go back for one kind of painful condition around the wound or another. Pretty soon, they discovered that the bacteria was beginning to poison his blood. They called the bacteria Acinetobacter Baumannii – apparently a real tough customer whose reaction to the toughest drugs is to turn over and settle in comfortably. The hospital infection, diseases that strike you when you’re weak and vulnerable in hospital, have been known of for some time. Doctors have done a lot of work publicizing one particular hospital disease – MRSA – and they’ve even found a cure for it.
The super-bugs like Acinetobacter receive not a fraction of the attention MRSA does. And people are dropping like flies through it. These new bacteria, and they call them Gram-negative bacteria, don’t yield to any known drug. The drug companies aren’t that interested in going out after them either – and yes, there is more than one. So there is someone an hospital and if he gets one of these new gram-negative bacteria infection diseases, what is it that the doctors do to treat it, as there is no drug that quite controls them? An Iraq veteran who suffered considerable injuries in a roadside bomb, while he was recuperating from his injuries back in the US, had the bad luck to catch one of these new bugs. His health deteriorated so much, that the doctors decided on the only option in these cases, administering a dangerously powerful antibiotic, that was banned for general use, perhaps 40 years ago. A drug that’s been out of circulation for so long is perhaps the only hope against these rapidly evolving bacteria. The bacteria haven’t had a chance to get used to them.
However, the soldier found that his kidneys began to fail from poisoning by those antibiotics. The doctor advised that he go on with the treatment, and opt for a kidney transplant later if necessary. The soldier balked at such an extreme step, called doctor crazy, and took his own counsel. He stopped those dangerous drugs, and he hoped he would recover on its own. Luckily for him, sometimes, things like a stubborn infection, diseases you get at the hospital, can sort themselves out given enough time. For him, this actually did work out. Now at a hospital, he contributes time to an NGO that tries to spread awareness that doctors need to use fewer antibiotics in general. That’s what has caused all of this in the first place. The entire bacteria kingdom is so used to our antibiotics, that they have grown accustomed. Gram-negative bacteria are beginning to gain the ability to infect people outside of hospitals too. This is about the right time to act.