A Rise in Superbugs, Medicines Are No Longer as Effective
Many people would imagine an end of the world, apocalyptic scenario like this: A highly contagious superbug, perhaps something like Zika, H1N1, or Ebola, infects the majority of the human population, and no drugs or medication seem to affect the disease, which kills most human life – after all, this has been the theme of many blockbuster movies.
Concerningly, the idea of an omnipotent-like superbug immune to modern medicine is not that far-off.
The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement warning that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has the potential to kill 10 million people a year, being more deadly than cancer . Further, if left unrestrained, AMR threatens to reverse much of the positive medical progress that traditional medicine offers, antibiotic medicines, and cost the world economy up top $100 trillion annually.
A lot of this concern is due to the overuse of antibiotics. Remember, even though antibiotics are traditionally thought to be a non-active pill that relieves a host of disease, antibiotics are living organisms and dumping, i.e., prescribing, these organisms into the environment and biological systems alters the flow of biology.
During a review, the CDC previously found that antibiotic prescriptions were too high in every state. In 2010, there were 258 million antibiotic prescriptions, which means there were 833 prescriptions for 1,000 people . When doctors prescribe antibiotics for people who 1) carelessly have a deteriorated immune system and are constantly sick because of their unhealthy lifestyle or 2) actually have a life-threatening ailment, both affect the overall, macro-level biological system the same; however, one is unquestionably more important than the other.
Food production is also a threat to antibiotic use and adding to the flow of these bacteria into the environment through crop cultivation and animal rearing. In Florida where I live, orange groves will begin to be sprayed with several thousand kilograms of antibiotics .
You may ask, “Why does it matter if these medicines are released uncontrollably into the environment?” Well, the challenge is that pathogens, bacteria, fungi, and viruses, can, and normally do, develop a resistance or immunity towards the antibiotics through genetic mutations the more often they are exposed to them; think big picture and imagine the entire biological environment of the United States or the world. Sadly too, if any of these basic medications become ineffective, people in developing countries who need these for a life-altering disease may find them to be ineffective because of overuse in industrialized nations.
One of these mutant superbugs appears to be the STD gonorrhea. According to the Independent, the number of STD diagnoses in 2018 was the largest annually reported number since 1978, and since 2009, cases have risen by 249%. It was also reported that the demographic driving the increase are gay and bisexual men .
Gonorrhea has already mutated multiple times. Penicillin used to be a reliable treatment until 1976 when it became ineffective. After the following decades, gonorrhea overpowered many stronger medicines. Now, medical professionals rely on a class of drugs called cephalon-sporins, but now, the CDC recommends switching away from a pill form to an injectable form of cephalosporin to make the medicine more effective .
Therefore, gonorrhea is mutating to the point where typical antibiotics, including cephalosporin, are becoming ineffective. There have already been cases of “super”-gonorrhea that cannot be cured with the usual antibiotics, so it is only time until the STD wholly mutates .
STD cases overall, though, have dramatically increased in the United States. In 2017, there were close to 2.3 million new cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, as reported by the CDC .
Also, according to a survey conducted by the United Kingdom government, 47% of younger people (age 16 to 24) admit to having unprotected sex with total strangers at least once, and 10% said they never used any protection .
So, clearly, promiscuity plays a larger role in this, along with the secularization of the media and pop culture. With the rise in these antibiotic-resistant superbugs, a pandemic infection becomes more and more likely. Perhaps, nature's solutions to these diseases like black cumin, which has been shown to be effective against HIV, will have a role in this future .