What is a Super Bug?

The words 'super bug' can strike fear in the hearts of those who hear it. Not that long ago a nurse died as a result of one that she contracted in the hospital where she worked. What are these things that hold us in fear? Where did they come from?

A super bug is a strain of bacteria that no longer responds to existing antibiotics.

Where Did They Come From?

It happens something like this...

Imagine a counter covered with 1997 blue bacteria. There are also 2 red bacteria and 1 orange one. The blue represents 'normal' bacteria, the red represents anti-biotic resistant bacteria. Please note:In real life, this process takes longer that described here - I have exaggerated the speed to help you understand what happens.

If I clean the surface with a good disinfectant (and carefully follow the directions) - what's left will be 25 blue bacteria and both of the red and the orange. Over the next few days, as the bacteria multiply, the counter gets covered again, this time with 2000 blue, 64 red, and 32 orange.

Next time I clean, I end up with 25 blue again, but this time there are still the 64 red and 32 orange. As they multiply over the next few days, the red get the upper hand - there are now 2000 blue, 2048 red and 1024 orange. Now there's a problem. The red strain has become a super bug. I can no longer keep the population to a safe level with existing cleaning products.

What Can We Do?

The traditional response to this challenge has been to develop stronger chemicals to deal with the red population, and then stronger yet to deal with the orange ones, and on and on it goes. Although this does control the new super bug strains, there are two other side effects that are not at all desirable:

1. the stronger the disinfectant, the more toxic it is to human health and the environment.

2. the cycle of development of antibiotic/disinfectant resistant bacteria is not halted, but continues on indefinitely.

That's how we got the following new strains of bacteria:

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) - also known as flesh-eating disease

Clostridium difficile (c-difficile) - a serious potentially life-threatening intestinal bug that causes severe diarrhea.

J. Darrel Hicks of St Luke's Hospital believes that the proper response to this negative cycle is 'The guiding principle is always to remove germs if possible rather that kill them...Therefore the best way to remove pathogens in spore or vegetative form is with the use of a high quality split microfiber cloth'

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