The little killer in your gut – Health News
The world’s lightest arms race could be taking place right now in your belly.
One of the world’s most dangerous superbugs is rampant in Perth hospitals, but you’ve probably never heard of it.
Clostridioides difficile (also known as C difference.) is a bacteria that loves your gut. So much so that it infects almost all newborns. The current reasoning for this phenomenon is that newborn babies most likely have “sterile” guts which means C difference. has no competition. The bacterium comes into contact with a newborn via environmental contamination. About 70% of infants have it in their gutthen eject it after the first 2 years.
C difference. can affect anyone, not just babies. Although infants are thought to be immune to its toxins because they do not yet have the cell receptors to which the toxin binds, adults are not so lucky. But if you were infected as a child, you will fare better against the bacteria as an adult.
When illness or antibiotics reduce our normal intestinal flora, C difference. come to call. It can cause an infection of the large intestine, with symptoms of the disease ranging from diarrhea, pain, fever and even death.
THE LAUGHEST SPORE
Thanks to their endospores, C difference. infections are common and difficult to eradicate from hospitals. Endospores protect the bacterium from harsh conditions and low nutrient levels – much like a small bacterial spacesuit.
Tom Riley is a professor of public health at the University of Western Australia. He has devoted much of his career to understanding these superbugs.
“The [bacterial endospores] are very resistant to conventional disinfectants,” says Tom.
Besides being hard to kill, C difference. is gaining resistance to many conventional antibiotics. Half of the stumps of C difference. isolated from WA patients aged 1 to 4 years were resistant to an antibiotic. About 13% were resistant to multiple drugs.
Antibiotics are essential for treating infections. But the our overconsumption of broad-spectrum antibiotics makes our guts vulnerable to infection.
“Antibiotics are more of a problem in terms of causing disease than curing it,” says Tom.
“If you have normal intestinal flora, you are not susceptible to infections.”
Cephalosporins are a group of broad-spectrum antibiotics. They work by interfering with the penicillin-binding proteins of a bacterial cell. These proteins help glue cell walls together. Without them, the bacterial cell disintegrates and the bacteria dies.
Unfortunately, cephalosporins destroy the intestinal flora and are also associated with C difference. infection. With no other bacteria in the gut to compete with, C difference. can flourish. The wide use of cephalosporins because an antibiotic has changed where people are infected.
Tom says that 20 to 30 years ago most infections happened inside hospitals.
“Now most of the cases that come in are from outside the hospital,” Tom explains.
While some governments are trying to remove cephalosporins from livestock medicines, the damage has been done. Most strains of C difference.are inherently resistant to third-generation cephalosporins.
“It’s hard is listed in the [United States Centre for Disease Control] top five urgent threats to public health,” says Tom. “Australians haven’t quite realized that fact yet.”
So what can we do?
STOP THE SPREAD
Recent data suggests that fewer Australian GPs are prescribing broad-spectrum antibiotics.
And while this new trend is welcomed, prescribing antibiotics remains a difficult habit to break. Antibiotics are one of the most important advances ever made in medicine. They are extremely useful in fighting most bacterial infections.
However, the World Health Organization not recommended taking antibiotics for colds and flu. This is because these are viral infections that antibiotics are not designed to treat.
According to Tom, we also need to stop using human antibiotics in livestock. It creates a breeding ground for zoonotic diseases (diseases that are passed from animals to humans).
We are in a arms race with superbugs. It’s not a fight we can ever completely win, but if we take the above measures, we hope we can avoid losing completely.
This article originally appeared on Particle. Read the original article.