Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Scary Bacteria

Last Wednesday, my friend Zachary asked if I could lend him my notes for the classes he'd missed that day. He explained that he had waited all day at the drop-in doctor's clinic at McGill. I promised him that I would, then left for Portugal that night.

Yesterday, Zac shuffled into class and visibly winced as he took his seat. I looked at him, astonished. What had happened?

On Wednesday, he had waited all day at the clinic about a rapibly swelling bump on his elbow. When the doctors saw him, they explained he'd probably cut himself or been bitten by something, and that the wound had consequently gotten infected. They scheduled him for a follow-up appointment the next day (causing him to miss all of his classes again).

On Thursday, he went back in and they perscribed him a whole slew of antibacterial medication. He spent Friday and Saturday taking them, and feeling nauseous.
By Sunday, the swelling had ballooned: it had spread all the way down his forearm, and was halfway up his arm. Panicked, he checked himself to the Emergency Room, where they concluded that he'd been infected by a strain of bacteria that was resistant to anti-bacteria (no, really?).

"We're going to have to drain all of this excess fluid. This might be slightly uncomfortable," a nurse told him.

He grimaced. "Let's be honest now. This is going to hurt alot, isn't it?"
It did.
What hurts him the most now is that instead of having a tiny cut, he has a large gaping hole in his elbow, packed tightly with gauze.

When faced with a story like this, I simply cannot see how people refuse to believe in evolution. Maybe on a large scale, evolution is a concept that is difficult to wrap your head around, but what happened to Zac is a clear sign that bacteria are developping strains that are better are resisting traditional anti-bacterials. It's all very scary.

What is even scarier is some of the research currently being undertaken in the field. Scientists have discovered that some of the best ways to combat bacterial infections is to use molecules that mimick
our own immune system.

Let's see here: if these results are commercialized, we would be exposing bacteria to our own defenses, in large quantities, over a long period of time. This means that whatever few bacterial strains that survive our treatments would then, by extention, be able to resist our own defenses as well.

This biological "arms race" has been going on for billions of years. The reason our immune system is so effective (and it really is) is the fact that it is only used when neeeded: so bacteria never get a chance to develop a resistance to it.

I only hope that for once, people will decide to do the right thing and just stop this dangerous line of research.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


8:00 a.m.  
Blogger 007 in Africa said...

Oh God. Let's stop this insanity now!

7:35 a.m.  

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