The Superbug that Beat the NIH
Another week has brought another news story about drug-resistant bacteria. This time, the culprit is Klebsiella pneumoniae, or KPC, a nasty little pathogen that has so far eluded most attempts to control or kill it. What makes this latest news especially disquieting is the setting: The NIH announced that KPC has so far killed seven people in its own flagship clinical center.
What are we up against, exactly, with superbugs like these? Read on for a chilling snapshot of the power these invaders possess. It’s a long quote, but worth it.
[T]hat gives you a sense, I think, of what kind of formidable opponents these organisms are once they get this resistant. I mean, when this woman checked in, according to that original paper, they did the things that you’re supposed to do. They put her under contact isolation. They emphasized hand washing. People had to wear gowns and gloves and things like that. And then this bug started spreading.
And when you read through the list of the things that they tried first to contain it to her. They did things like they limited who could go into her room. They kept equipment like a blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope and things like that, just for her. They really emphasized extra cleaning of her room.
And then they started doing things like putting people in special rooms, only allowing certain staff to work on them. They ripped out the plumbing. They built new walls. They bombed the rooms with hydrogen peroxide. They hired extra personnel to actually watch their own personnel, to make sure that no one was doing anything that accidentally spread this bug. And it just kept going.
This isn’t evidence of incompetence on the part of our nation’s front line against disease, nor is it especially unusual behavior by the bacteria in question. Evolution harbors no malign intent or conscious direction. You expose a few trillion bugs to an antibiotic, and one or two of them are bound to have a mutation that confers resistance. Check back a day later, and those one or two will be all that remain. Check back a year later and this new strain is spreading like wildfire without any natural or medical enemies.
And so it goes.
The solution, of course, is to curb the overprescription of antibiotics. The less exposure these critters get to deadly drugs, the less likely they are to promote new mutations that render those drugs useless.
Sinus infections remain the most common source of unnecessary drug scripts in this country, which is why I continue to discuss it in this space. But the same holds true for prophylactic prescriptions for sore throats, flu-like symptoms and earaches. The lesson: it is almost always wiser to wait and see.
For a more measured and effective perspective on Los Angeles sinus medicine, please contact my Century City offices today.