As the northern countries head into winter, experts predict that more than 100 million people will be at risk of succumbing to new bacterial assaults during the season.
For decades scientists have warned about the limited long-term efficacy of antibiotics and that at some point bacterial evolution would outstrip our ability to develop ways of arresting the effects of the most lethal ones on humans.
Around 2000 the super-bug MRSA was identified in hospitals and spread massive panic. In 2009 Professor Tim Walsh published details of a gene he had discovered, called NDM 1, which passes easily between types of bacteria such as E. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae and makes them resistant to almost all of the powerful, last-line group of antibiotics.
Studies found that NDM 1 was widespread in India and had arrived in Europe as a result of global travel and medical tourism, including transplants, pregnancy care and cosmetic surgery.
By 2010 new strains of TB had evolved to the point where the disease was classified as “XDR-TB (extremely drug resistant TB).”
Now there is a whole new class of MegaBugs on which antibiotic “miracle drugs” have no effect.
A 2019 study showed that if no solution was found, health services around the world would be swamped and unable to respond within two years. Well that time has come.
All transplant operations have been stopped, pneumonia is now a major cause of death in over-60s and the removal of an appendix now results in death in more than 50% of cases. We have literally entered a time-warp and gone back to living with the health realities of a pre-penicillin world.
The WHO estimates that deaths from super-bugs world-wide have now reached a going-rate of 50 million world-wide annually. EU governments have recommended that people with the MegaBug should just stay home, to die.
“We are unable to provide any meaningful treatment other than pain relief, and you can do that at home,” said the EU Health minister Jacques Say.
“The best prevention continues to be absolute cleanliness at home and when cooking. But there is nothing right now that we can do to slow this MegaBug epidemic down. It seems to be an evolutionary process that we have to go through and hope that our bodies develop effective antibodies over time.”
“The emergence of antibiotic resistance is the most eloquent example of Darwin’s principle of evolution that there ever was,” says Dr David Livermore CEO of the EU Health Protection Agency. “It is a war of attrition. It is naive to think we can win.”
Amazon is helping to distribute free pain-killers to homes. MegaBug videos, including gory death scenes and practical tips, have more viewers than any other category on YouTube.
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
But, could this all just be scare-mongering? The ‘end of antibiotics’ has been predicted before.
In 1992, resistant infections in hospitals killed 19,000 patients in the US and contributed to the death of 58,000 more world-wide.
In 2005, more than two million people in the US were infected and 90,000 died. In the UK, there were 300,000 infected patients with 5,000 deaths, according to information compiled by science writer, Thomas Hausler in his book, Viruses vs Superbugs.
Even after almost 20 years of these major events, antibiotics continue to thrive even though more resistance has been reported regularly. Will the August 2010 obituary on antibiotics also be another such premature prediction? If you’d like to read more about previous predictions, see the links with this MindBullet.
Or, will this event be the tipping point? In the language of chaos, could this be the bifurcation point, when all the rules suddenly change?
This MindBullet does not attempt to make a prediction, but rather to create a scenario of the consequences IF such an event occurs. And, how would YOUR business be affected if it does?