Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Ebola Virus, The Superbug and The Battle for Survival

The recent reports of the Ebola Epidemic in some countries in Africa has caused a serious concern among medics and common people all over the world. There have been false alarms about the detection of possible cases of people affected by the disease in the airports every where, most however have turned out to be false. Rampant use of antibiotics, a sedentary life style, and a life style that is becoming steadily sterilized and sanitized all might have contributed to plummeting immunity levels and a growing susceptibility to contract the bug!                 
Scientists all over the world are concerned that there might be an outbreak of an epidemic of alarming proportions, an epidemic over which medical science might not have a solution. Throughout the history of the planet we have seen how various species have struggled with each other for space and dominance. The mighty dinosaurs became extinct, their sheer mass and size did nothing to ensure their survival. It was the small rodent, a mammal which survived( the mammal became the predecessor some higher forms of mammals)   the meteor strike which struck the Earth and caused a nuclear winter kind of situation. So, then it is clear that might and sheer size do not spell success! Today, the mighty Tiger is fast approaching extinction! The same can be said of the Lion! It is gradually becoming clear to scientists all over the world that Man’s dominance on the Earth is being challenged by other life forms. No, we are not threatened by a Godzilla, or a Loch-Ness Monster, rather we are under threat from  tiny, microscopic organisms called bacteria and viruses.
There has been an alarming increase in the out break of strange and mysterious diseases which are accompanied by hemorrhagic fevers, and high temperatures. Doctors are puzzled by the symptoms because they are unable to diagnose the cause. They resort to broad spectrum antibiotics  which incidentally have no effect on the disease. The only course of treatment is to give symptomatic treatment, replacement of body fluids, and  keeping  control over the body temperature. When researchers did a study later on, they identified the highly evolved strains of the Ebola Virus and the Hanta virus. Avian flu, swine flu are examples of some of the diseases which affect a wide variation of species. The AIDS virus itself a very clever virus had a particular strain found in a particular family of monkeys. It is a proof of evolution that now we have a strain of the AIDS virus which targets human beings! The AIDS virus is a clever virus, it imitates or copies the protein molecules found in the human body, and cleverly hides inside the human cell. The white blood cells don’t attack the invaders because they think that the AIDS virus is a friendly organism, part of the human cell!
Scientists believe that the future of the entire human species is threatened, not by a monster or an alien from outer space, but rather by an alien from within the Earth, the Superbug! These superbugs may be described as highly intelligent micro-organisms which have evolved and developed and adapted to fight drugs, antibiotics, and harsh weather conditions! To a great extent we are responsible for making these superbugs, super! Our indiscriminate use of disinfectants, and antibiotics has lead to the creation of a new strain of viruses and bacteria which are drug resistant!
Charles Darwin talked about the role of adaptation in the survival of species, which is quite true today! Mankind’s fight for survival will not be with a Godzilla but with tiny microscopic organisms called bacteria or viruses. Today we have become complacent and lazy, believing that our dominance on the Earth is permanent. What we don’t know is that other species are quietly but surely, evolving and adapting at a faster rate than us. They are becoming more intelligent than we are while we squabble amongst ourselves over petty matters! The genes of these micro-organisms are evolving faster and faster, while Mankind’s development is slowing down because Man has reached the peak of his development. So, then, how will mankind fight the superbug?  Does the advent of the superbug mean the end for us? Will we develop into robots which are virus proof or bacteria proof?
In a world progressing towards miniaturization it is not surprising that we need to fear the smaller organisms than the big and mighty ones. History has proved that in the struggle for survival  the big and the mighty beasts proved  to be lumbering and lazy, while the smaller organisms were more intelligent and active! Thus we have the NDM1 Superbug. This is a multi-drug resistant bacteria found in the sewers, open water pools and even in some  drinking water samples!
(Klebsiella pneumonia and E.coli bacteria can host the NDM 1 enzyme and both can lead to urinary tract infections. Symptoms of NDM1 include, Klebsiella pneumonia which affects the lungs and E.coli affects the Gastrointestinal system. Infection areas currently include India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. NDM 1 has reached Britain, America, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. Carbapenem antibiotics are the strongest line of defense against multi-resistant bacteria. Carbapenems are often a last-resort drug. Even this powerful antibiotic cannot tackle the new NDM 1 superbug. )

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