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Scientists: We've lost the war against "super bugs"

A patient with a viral infection demands (and gets) antibiotics from a wimpish doctor. "Good bacteria" in the patients system are killed wholesale, making room for "bad" bacteria which will cause trouble down the road. These are culled by the antibiotic, until only those most resistant to it survive.

Since the infection itself is caused by a virus- which by definition is unaffected by antibiotics- the medicine does the patient no good whatsoever as far as the complaint which brought him to the doctor is concerned.

There is a very good reason why antibiotics can't kill viruses. They're not living things. You can't kill something that isn't alive to begin with.

People (like me) foolishly buy anti-bacterial soaps, dish washing detergents, and so forth- which are far too weak to actually kill all the bacteria on skin or other surfaces, but do quite a fine job of ensuring that only the hardiest survive. Plain old ordinary soap would kill enough of the bacteria to do the job without arming the survivors against attempts to kill their progeny.

More and more bacteria join the club. They're alive, unlike viruses. But antibiotics can't kill them, because they've grown immune to them. They become resistant to first one, and then another, and then yet another antibiotic, until the doctors no longer have anything that's effective against them.

We've been hearing about these "super bugs" for some time now. They're bad news. But the really bad news is that doctors now say that our battle against them at this stage has become unwinnable.

According to these folks, it's going to be an ongoing "arms race" between us and superbug bacteria here on out- and so expensive an "arms race" that some drug manufacturers have already stopped developing the new antibiotics we'll need to keep up with the little critters.As hard as this is to imagine, it appears that our children may well end up in pretty much the same boat our great-grandparents were, before the discovery of antibiotics. If they get an infection, either their immune systems will beat it, or they'll die.

Drugs won't help kill infections anymore- or fewer and few of them, anyway.

Even so, I personally think it's time to throw away the antibacterial soap and listen to the doctor when he tells us that antibiotics won't kill viruses. Perhaps, if disaster can't be averted at this point, at least it can still be mitigated.

HT: Drudge

ADDENDUM: Through some kind of brain freeze I originally entitled this post "Scientists: We've lost the war against "super bug" viruses." This, of course, is ridiculous; there is no such critter (or, if you prefer, all viruses are "super bugs" in the sense that antibiotics don't work against any of them). The "super bugs" to which the post refers are, of course, bacteria.

I must have had viruses on the brain, or something.


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