What is the Superbug?

The superbug is not a universally known term, but it is increasingly being used in many industrialized countries to represent MRSA or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

As the name suggests, this is a bacterium that is resistant to the antibiotic methicilin. MRSA is a strain of Staphylococcus aureus that often is found on the skin or in the nose. It can often cause minor problems such as boils, abscesses or rashes. It can also cause serious illnesses such as endocarditis, pneumonia, septicemia and meningitis, especially in the very young, the very weak, the elderly and those who are pregnant.

There are also strains of Staphylococcus aureus that are resistant to the antibiotics erythromycin, tetracycline and vancomycin and the oxazolidinone Linezolid.

Another bacterium that is known as a superbug in many regions is Enterococcus faecium. It also can demonstrate resistance to the above antibiotics.

How did it Happen?

Occasionally these bacteria will produce a mutant. Normally such a mutant would either not survive or have no effect on the their evolution. Occasionally, a mutant will have an extraordinary characteristic that is beneficial (to it, and not to us unfortunately). This is good old-fashioned natural selection. One of those characteristics is resistance to specific antibiotics. The wide use of antibiotics, especially in industrialized economies, has led to many of the non-resistant strains being killed off, leaving the mutant resistant strains behind and allowing them to multiply.

What is the Answer?

1. We need to reduce the liberal use of antibiotics otherwise we will inevitably see more resistant bacteria. This is not a solution to the current problem, but a way to prevent (or at least curtail) the evolution of new superbugs.

2. A new method is to allow a controlled release of a virus – called a phage – that will attack bacteria. Phage therapy is still under development but may be a lifeline in the battle against the superbug.

3. We must improve hygiene so that the bacteria do not appear in the first place. This means we must wash our hands when we visit the washroom and use biocidal wet wipes where appropriate. Disease-carrying flies and wasps must be prevented from entering vulnerable locations such as kitchens, hospitals, kindergartens and rest homes using fly screens. If they do enter, they must be killed using fly killing machines.

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One thought on “What is the Superbug?

  1. Phage therapy is a form of virus therapy that employs bacteriophages to kill infectious bacteria. It is almost 100 years old and has been used continuously. Here is a short handout I use for a presentation on the subject:

    Superbugs, Phage Therapy: Getting Beyond Bullshit und Ueberbullshit!

    The following headlines might have appeared in Canada:

    1917: Canadian microbiologist, Felix d’Herelle, discovers natural nanotechnology, bacteriophage therapy, that can cure and prevent superbug infections and foodborne bacterial disease.

    2008: Canadians continue to suffer and die unnecessarily from superbug infections and foodborne disease because Canada is too venal to approve and use natural nanotechnology, bacteriophage therapy, discovered by Canadian microbiologist, Felix d’Herelle in 1917.

    While 8000 to 12000 Canadians are dying from antibiotic-resistant superbug infections annually the joke is on us, as some countries still practice technology discovered by the Canadian, Felix d’Herelle in 1917. Phage therapy uses highly specific viruses, bacteriophages, which are harmless for humans, to treat bacterial infections. Phage therapy is not currently approved or practiced in Canada. According to a letter signed by a former federal health minister it can be made available legally to Canadians under the Special Access Program of our Food & Drugs Act! A discussion of phage therapy is currently very timely because of the release of the Canadian film: Killer Cure: The Amazing Adventures of Bacteriophage and the book by Thomas Haeusler entitled, Viruses vs. Superbugs, a solution to the antibiotics crisis? ( see http://www.bacteriophagetherapy.info ). Both references are available at Ottawa libraries.
    This file has dramatically changed because the US Food and Drug Administration has amended the US food additive regulations to provide for the safe use of a bacteriophages on ready-to-eat meat against Listeria monocytogenes (see http://www.fda.gov/OHRMS/DOCKETS/98fr/02f-0316-nfr0001.pdf ). Also http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/opabacqa.html . The idea that ready-to-eat meat can be treated if contaminated with Listeria bacteria while a doctor could not get a pharmaceutical grade phage therapy product when faced with a patient suffering listeriosis strikes this author as absurd especially considering the recent massive recall of ready-to-eat meat in Canada due to contamination with listeria. Information is available on phage therapy treatment in Georgia , Europe ( http://www.phagetherapycenter.com ), or Poland – ( http://www.aite.wroclaw.pl/phages/phages.html ) or more recently at the Wound Care Center, Lubbock, Texas ( http://www.woundcarecenter.net/ ) .
    Canada should establish ‘The Superbug Victim Felix d’Herelle Memorial Center for Experimental Phage Therapy’ to provide phage therapy to patients when antibiotics fail or when patients are allergic to antibiotics.

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