Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Superbug!

Over the past decade, we've seen more than our share of epidemic scares.  West Nile virus, H1N1, SARS (remember that one?)...all of them conjuring images of people wearing surgical masks in the grocery store, quarantines for mass sectors of the population, and talking head news pundits with big electronic maps attempting to plot and project the course of the outbreak.

Now, as if by the authority of an unseen, all-powerful entity that enjoys giggling the phrase "careful what you wish for," I found this article as I logged on to MSNBC.com this morning.
A Japanese man in India is infected with a new strain of bacteria.  This bacteria in question has an adaptive gene that makes it resistant to antibiotics.  Called NDM-1, the gene has been found in increasingly large amounts of bacteria in India.
The World Health Organization states that further study of NDM-1 is needed, but no one should be alarmed.  Drug-resistant superbugs are increasingly common, but with effective measures, countries have successfully battled multi-drug resistant microorganisms in the past.

You will all have to pardon me if I delve into the depths of paranoia for just a moment.  First of all, "drug-resistant microorganisms."  It just doesn't sound good.  While it does seem that such outbreaks can be managed and controlled at this point, what does that say about the future?  Do we have any reason to believe that this resistance won't continue to mutate to a point where we will have fewer and fewer treatment options available?  Second of all, just what else would WHO tell us, anyway?  Buy canned goods and stay in the basement with the people you love?  Don't think so.
And what about the notion of a drug-resistant virus?  Perhaps something on the order of Ebola?  In all of God's creation, few lifeforms are as adaptive and as tenacious as a virus.  I believe it is mere a matter of time before we see the outbreak of a virus that human medicine is simply unable to combat.   In fact, I wouldn't be a bit surprised is such superbugs already exist, locked in stasis inside the labs of the bioengineers who were paid to create them.
Please do not misunderstand.  I am not gearing up a survivalist bunker and awaiting an extinction-level pandemic.  If there truly is nothing that can be done about such a form of bacteria or virus, then there doesn't seem much point in worrying, does there?  I write this merely as what TV's Space Ghost might say..."something to think about."


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