Killer Bacteria All Around You

For over two decades, medical professionals have been warning about the rise of “superbugs” — deadly bacteria that drugs can’t kill.

And while some precautions were taken to slow their spread, it hasn’t been enough. One in particular is so bad that a former director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) called it “nightmare bacteria.”

Luckily, help is on the way.

A Temporary Victory in an Ancient Battle

Bacteria were some of the first life-forms to appear on the planet, and they are the most prevalent life on Earth.

They’re also present in just about every living thing. Most of them are benign — simply content to stay where they are without harming us. But bacteria can also be deadly.

When bacteria go rogue on you, they can siphon off resources your body needs… produce toxins that can harm your organs… or straight up eat your healthy cells.

Even before the rise of modern medicine, an infection wasn’t necessarily a death sentence. Early doctors and folk healers realized that certain plants and concoctions could help cure infections. Without knowing it, they’d stumbled on the first antibiotics.

In the late 1920s, scientists figured out why those early cures worked. It started with Alexander Fleming, who realized that a specific kind of mold inhibited bacterial growth. He called it penicillin.

But our victory over bacteria proved relatively short-lived.

Rise of the Superbugs

According to the CDC, drug-resistant bacteria are a bigger problem today than ever before. Over 2 million people become sick each year thanks to these superbugs. And over 23,000 of those people die.

Treating superbugs is a $20 billion drain on our economy, with sick and out-of-work patients costing an additional $35 billion lost in productivity.

In 2013, the CDC published a report with its strongest warning about drug-resistant bacteria yet. It also made a list of 18 of the worst drug-resistant bacteria that have been encountered in the United States.

And one bacterium was identified as the biggest threats to human health. It’s called carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE).

A Nightmare Spreads

Enterobacteriaceae — the “E” in “CRE” — represent a large family of bacteria.

But the bigger concern about CRE is the “carbapenem-resistant” part of the name.

Carbapenems are a class of antibiotic, first developed by Merck in the early 1970s and approved for human use in 1985. Their chemical makeup weakens the cell walls of bacteria, causing them to burst.

It was developed around the time that doctors were realizing that new antibiotics wouldn’t be effective for long. They didn’t want bacteria to become resistant to such a powerful, wide-ranging drug. So the plan was to use carbapenems sparingly — only in cases when no other antibiotics were working.

Unfortunately, bacteria adapted much faster than expected.

As early as 1986, doctors discovered some bacteria had evolved an enzyme that breaks down carbapenem. The cell essentially neutralizes the drug before it has a chance to do its job.

Soon, more and more hospitals and medical facilities were encountering patients with CRE…

The Last Line of Defense Has Failed

There are many ways that drug-resistant bacteria can grow and spread.

Officially, CRE cause about 9,300 infections a year and 600 deaths in the United States alone. Unofficially, however, that number could be much greater.

Given the prevalence of CRE, stopping the spread won’t be easy. What doctors need is a way around the bacteria’s resistance — a way to safely kill the CRE.

Dozens of companies are racing to create the next generation of antibiotics, many spurred by government legislation to speed up their development.

As the first real breakthroughs start to hit the market, you can be sure I’ll be right here to tell you all about which companies are leading the way in this new amazing advance.

To a bright future,

Ray Blanco
for The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning