Saturday, August 11, 2012


Emergence of new strains of pathogens resistant to all known antibiotic drugs is a matter of concern for medical communities all over the world. Detection of this trait in Klebsiella recently in the US is a pointer to the spread of more and more virulent strains of simple bacteria with high resistance to most known drugs. It was in India that the existence of a new set of genes that confer resistance to many drugs was reported and now it is more or less admitted that plasmids from such genes are easily transferred to any bacterium which can make it drug resistant. Such bacterial strains are a potent source of creating many types of Frankenstein disease vectors with no vulnerability to all known treatment regimes known to human beings. Here is a commentary on this new development.  

The bacteria are called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CRE. They're black sheep in a big herd of mostly harmless germs that includes common organisms inhabiting every body's gut, such as the familiar E. coli. In the Rhode Island case, the germ was Klebsiella, which can cause pneumonia and a variety of other infections. The particular trait of these bugs causing most concern is a set of genes, originally seen in New Delhi, that confer resistance to practically all antibiotics. Even more alarming, these New Delhi genes reside on a circular piece of DNA called a plasmid that can be transferred easily to many other kinds of bacteria, rendering them "extensively drug resistant," or XDR. The CDC says only one antibiotic, called colistin, can treat the New Delhi strain.While other forms of CRE have been seen in U.S. hospitals and nursing homes with increasing frequency over the past decade, the New Delhi variant is only beginning to show up.

If such trends continue and the list of drug resistant pathogens grows fast in the coming years the medical community will have no armor to fight them unless more investment flows into research to fight this phenomenon. While hygiene and sanitation play a role in resisting infection, the poor economic and educational standards in many third world countries make it difficult to make the people follow measures like frequent hand washing and other pre-emptive practices. A drastic re-calibration of the primary health centers providing more teeth to the programs concerned with early detection of such debilitating diseases like TB and others will go a long way to arrest their spread on the track. No matter how much public money flows into disease fighting programs in every country, ultimate responsibility falls on the individual to protect himself from such incidences through conscious personal efforts.    


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