Fight against superdrugs

This is an essay I wrote for the Antibiotic Week celebrated at Patan Hospital back when I was a medical student. Here I portray myself as a happy bacterium that is thriving in a world where antibiotic stewardship is not followed.

Anti-Antibiotics week has been being celebrated in the bacteria world since the first beta-lactamases were invented. This year, an adolescent staphylococcus with a lot of wisdom is giving a speech.

VRSA, the vice president of Fight against Super Drugs Development (FSDD), has been actively advocating (mechanisms of antibiotic resistance) among less privileged groups of bacteria. “Triumph of hope over desperation,” said the vice-president of the FSDD club, pointing towards the antimicrobial week that humans celebrate. Then he invited a bacterium on the stage to shed some light on the glorified FSDD club.

“Hello! I am a bacterium. I belong to the staphylococcus group according to the classification done by another species here on earth. An anecdote; they consider themselves superior enough to fight against us. They are that foolish a species. Today, I’ll tell you about my daily activities and my life goals. Now, it’s a known fact that we fit in the grand scheme of things better than any other species. Well, maybe viruses are debatably our competitors in that regard, but that’s an issue I’ll consider later. My parents tell me that I am a very happy and brave bacterium, just like them. As you all know, we, staphylococci, are very social bacteria. We like in clusters and love keeping cats as pets. It’s funny how human beings think we’re catalase positive. But anyhow, Almighty didn’t make them as bright as us! They’re bad!

I love traveling. I stay in people’s homes, their dishes, food, and all the places you can imagine. I love dirty hands. I hide just under a dirty nail and say goodbye to my siblings as they go to all the places the unclean hand touches. And you’d be amazed if I tell you where people let us go without washing their hands. This one time, I was talking with my cousin Roy the streptococci under a thumb-nail, and the man under whose thumb-nail we were discussing our career option touched a tiny human being. They call them neonates, I guess. After a week,  Cousin Roy wrote to me that his career goals are being met and that he has a thriving business of causing impetigo on that small neonate’s cheeks. He is also thinking of extending his business. Chains of impetigo maybe, like chains of hotels humans came up with so that we can harbor on leftovers and unhygienic food.

If you are starting to think that humans might be actually helping us take over the world, wait till I tell you about some more kind human beings. But first I’d want to tell you about some human beings that are rude and unhelpful. They belong to no specific place and are very hard to recognize. Most of them wear this white coat and carry some long rope around their neck. They’ve invented and are using chemicals to kill us. The funny thing is, even after we had a head start in evolution; they came up with such powerful substances. But thanks to our brave ancestors who used all their wit to figure out ways to survive. (Mechanism of resistance and things like transposons etc.) that our vice president advocated at the beginning was their gift to us.

This is where the kind among these white coats-wearing people fit in the story. It would sound unbelievably funny, but they started using those chemicals so rampant that we had enough samples to bring to our labs, test them with our brightest minds and make changes in us that would render these chemicals useless. I mean, why would you use only the power you have against your strongest enemy so carelessly? They started prescribing antibiotics to people harboring our friend viruses and fungi; they started taking fewer doses of these chemicals, which helped us take samples and conduct more studies on them. As ridiculous as it may sound, they started giving them to other animals even when they weren’t sick. There are plenty of journals written by our bacteria brothers who live in pigs about inventing different approaches to render these chemicals useless. Thanks to an ample number of samples provided by the pig farmers.

Talking about researches, some are going on the human side of the battlefield too. That’s our greatest threat. But here’s the good news; we are inventing new tricks and tweaks to get by the chemicals humans use to kill us with. They are not creating more chemicals as efficiently. Once I was on the hand of this biochemist who forgot to wash his hands after touching a petri-dish; that’s my birthplace, by the way. He was in this conference where people were discussing hurdles to the development of super drugs. I was tiny then, so I couldn’t catch all of what they were speaking, but things like insufficient funding and pharmaceuticals being more interested in modifying the same drug and making it earn more for them came up repeatedly.

I would like to end with a quote I heard at that very conference. “With great power comes great responsibilities.” So, let’s remember when we come up with great ideas to get by every weapon humans have against us, we have a responsibility to share it with our offspring. Let’s rule the world!”

Cite this article as: Sajan Acharya, Nepal, "Fight against superdrugs," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, October 11, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/10/11/fight-against-superdrugs/, date accessed: October 18, 2021

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