The coming pandemic?

msnbc.msn.com/id/38655676/ns … s_diseases

Some of us have talked about a “die back” of the species based on a new “bug” that is both easily transmittable and fast acting, a disease that acts faster than our technological ability to combat it. It seems than nature is out-flanking our technologies. It doesn’t have to create a new disease, it simply makes the old infectious diseases immune to all of our antibiotics and antiviral “magic bullets”. If I’m reading this correctly, very soon, every disease becomes a “super bug”. We may win a few battles and end up losing the war?

The pace of antibiotic development is usually misrepresented in lay literature. The prevailing wisdom for a long time was that we didn’t need any new antibiotics, so funding for antibiotic research dried up. On top of that, current market forces deincentivize the production of antibiotics by for-profit companies because they have a built-in obsolescence, they are infrequently used (as opposed to erection or blood pressure pills), and the approval process surrounding them is very expensive.

But like most doomsday scenarios, I wouldn’t give this one too much credence. All those factors can be easily addressed by a variety of means.

And what might those easily addressed means be? It seems to me that the increasing physical interdependence of world trade guarantees the spread of any “bug” much faster than research can match. If simple diseases like the various flu varieties become immune to all antibiotics, we might have a problem. The “doomsday” wouldn’t have to be the disease, but the cascade of reactionary policies aimed at prevention: Quarantine is a good example. What happens when an area is quarantined that relies on outside sources of food? The disease might not kill people, but starvation could. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how the interlinkings of reaction could create chaos…

Given that antibiotics have different targets, and there are a massive variety of targets specific to domain Bacteria, as well as specific species of bacteria associated with disease there is no such thing as a bacterium that is resistant to “all” antibiotics. The trick is to develop more antibiotics, as well as apply them in a more scientifically correct manner than we previously have been, which is part of the reason why the (multi)-resistant strains have come about. The latter could be implemented right now. How one approaches the former largely depends on one’s political leanings. I think that there needs to be increased NIH funding and increased funding made available in these areas while removing the profit incentive on drug manufacture and focusing it more on drugs that cure disease as opposed to drugs that give people erections. A more capitalistically inclined individual would probably suggest that eliminating the very long and incredibly expensive approval process would fix the problem.

Realistically speaking, a combination of these two processes would probably produce the optimal result: increased funding for research into antibiotics as well as making the private drug approval process less expensive and time consuming.

You did say easy, right? :confused: While I might agree, the likelyhood of this happening is slim to none - and slim left town and the nun was drivin’. Whatever you’re smoking send me some. It HAS to be some good shit. :laughing: But to the point: If the ante has been raised in this “war”, the fixes won’t come fast enough. That’s been proven time after time historically. What is disturbing about this report isn’t the discovery of one bug, but the ability of multiple diseases becoming immune to our current crop of antibiotics in a relatively short period of time. Our inability to react quickly starts the problem.

Oh, and don’t be messing with the erection pills. We don’t want to disappoint the girls. :wink:

I’d like to see you cite those “historical” sources you are taking as a given here.

And the combinatorial approach is the “easy” one as well as the most likely because it will be the result of compromises along all sides. Given the current political climate and the American dominance in pharmaceutical development, it is likely to more closely mirror the extreme capitalist approach than the more socialist one. But as I said, either approach yields dividends, it is a matter of which one is better.

If it happens, and it very well might, it won’t be by nature.

Ahh c’mon! The Hn1 flu vaccines weren’t exactly an over-night solution, and the virus had already mutated before the vaccines could be produced and distrubuted. You’re looking at the pure science possibilities and I’m looking at our so-called best efforts on the ground. Hn1 (luckily) wasn’t the biggie, but if it had been, the best of science and politics were woefully inadequate. That’s our latest history and it tell’s me that our science isn’t enough. You may be right that science can conquer all, but it ain’t happening outside the laboratory. A miracle in a laboratory isn’t what happens in some poor village in Africa - or some inner city ghetto in the U.S.

Now you are moving goalposts. That is fine, but I thought you actually wanted a conversation.

I didn’t move anything. I’m talking RL application and you’re talking what is possible in the lab. We’re both wrong and right at the same time…

The people set to release it don’t see a distinction between society and nature. They do the things they do because they know we never left the jungle, and it’s a cruel one with no real law. Who is to say they are wrong?

The biggest risk we face by far is “the twelve monkeys solution”. That’s where ecologists decide they’re going to save the planet by killing a whole lot of the people. Antibiotics won’t help, because antibiotics don’t combat viruses. You need an antiviral. But if you go to your doctor with flu, he can’t cure it. You can be immunised against influenza, and there are some drugs that can help, but the rule of thumb is this: you can’t cure a viral infection.

Take a look at the wikipedia page on H5N1 signs and symptoms, and pay careful attention to the mortality rate:

“The reported mortality rate of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in a human is high; WHO data indicates that 60% of cases classified as H5N1 resulted in death.”

Also take a look at the sections on prevention and treatment. IMHO it’s a lot more worrying than climate change. Especially after the “cry wolf” issues surrounding swine flu. Next time a pandemic threatens, it’s possible we’ll see an underreaction, which could be vary bad news indeed.