In this day and age, when one gets sick, it’s a quick fix. Swallow a few pills, take a day off, and become better in no time. The modern era, accompanied by the wonders of modern medicine, makes once-deadly pathogens, like influenza and the common cold, mere nuisances. However, danger lurks right around the corner. Diseases and infections once thought to be conquered now rise to be a threat once more.
The threat is superbugs. Superbugs are bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi that have grown resistant to the drugs or treatments used to eliminate them. This happens due to the process of natural selection and evolution. As pathogens are treated with antibiotics/treatments, the microbe population is pressured to adapt to the change. One microbe in that population might be able to resist treatment and survive in its genes, thus living another day to replicate while others die, eventually replacing all members of that microbe population with that resistant gene. This microbe would be considered a superbug, along with the rest of the population.
As it stands, a microbe’s ability to grow resistance is an increasingly urgent global health concern. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “ 1.27 million people worldwide” are affected with “ 5 million deaths in 2019” alone. As treatments lose their ability to combat microbes, we can no longer control them.
Superbugs affect not only our healthcare services but the veterinary and agricultural industries as well. This means that our pets and food are at risk too.
But what can be done to fight superbugs? Once a microbe evolves into a superbug, it’s very difficult or even impossible to treat it. The CDC advises that the best way to combat them is to prevent infections. Improve antibiotic and antifungal use, and stop the spread when it does develop into one. With these methods, we can effectively defend ourselves against this microscopic threat.
Superbugs, although presently a quiet issue, may transform into a much more dire situation in the future. We must be wary of these returning pathogens. Luckily, however, we have found a way to combat them, hopefully preserving the future.