Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Global Warming Breeds Super Bugs

“The world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill. ” 
-  Keiji Fukuda, Assistant director-general, World Health Organization. 

Dr Abe V Rotor
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In another article in this Blog, “Industrialization is Driving Our Climate Wild,” I discussed how global warming affects agriculture. In this one I will present how the present phenomenon affects our health and welfare, and why we should gear up against the possible epidemic spread of pests and pathogenic diseases.

Global warming model at the former St Paul University Museum

Leptospirosis, also called infectious jaundice, became known as a disease recently when Manila virtually remained underwater for days as a result of monsoon rains intensified by a series of typhoons. The disease’s symptom is yellow coloration of the skin. The causal organism is a spiral bacterium, hence the name, and is endemic where public sanitation and personal hygiene are neglected. One can contact the disease through infected rodent and other animal urine. According to reports, most of the victims acquire the disease from polluted drinking water or wading in flood streets. The suspected carrier is the Rattus rattus norvigicus or city rat, counterpart of the field rat, Rattus rattus mindanensis.


How do we know if a person has contacted the disease? At first, the symptoms are like those of an ordinary flu, which may last for a few days as the pathogen incubates in the body. If not treated immediately, the infection may lead to hemorrhages of the skin or mucus linings and eye inflammation. Extreme cases may lead to irreversible damage to the liver and kidney.

As floodwaters drive the rats out of their subterranean abode (such as canals, culverts, and sewers), they take refuge in homes, market stalls, restaurants, even high rise buildings and malls, bringing the infectious bacterium directly to its victims. The migratory nature of rats also explains how leptospirosis can reach people living far from the flooded areas.

Bubonic Plague or Black Death

This brings to mind the dreaded scourge of mankind in the Middle Ages, bubonic plague. Rats are the carriers of this bacterium-caused disease also called the Black Death. It was so deadly that it claimed the lives of at least 100 million people with 25 million in Europe alone. It stopped man’s progress that the period was appropriately described Second Dark Ages. It spread around crowded cities and towns, with the pestilence peaking with climatic upheavals, such as what we know today as the El Nino phenomenon. Historical accounts are usually laced with superstitious beliefs. With the arrival of Renaissance (Rebirth of Learning) in the 15th century the whole incident was shelved and filed away in archives. But scientists today are piecing up together evidences which may indicate that climate had something to do with long-term cycle of the disease.

The bubonic plague appeared in the United States at the start of the 1900 and then in India in the late 1970’s, but thanks to modern medicine the disease was effectively controlled even before it reached epidemic stages. Between 1941 and 1945, the Japanese used the plague bacteria in war, by rearing the germs clinically and using flea (Xenopsylla cheopis) as carrier. The idea is to sow pestilence, thereby defeating the enemy both in the battlefield and at home. After successfully testing the bubonic plague bombs on China, Japan aimed the new biological weapon against its number one enemy, the U.S. The attempt failed when the American forces dropped two atomic bombs in 1945 obliterating Hiroshima and Nagasaki, resulting in the end of World War II hostilities.

Adverse Weather and Common Ailments


 Antibiotics fail 15% of patients due to superbugs and ‘reckless’ prescription.

Common ailments are usually tied to adverse weather conditions. Following are same examples:

1. The outbreak of boils for one is more likely to occur under hot, steamy weather. The same is true with many bacterial and fungal skin diseases.

2. Influenza outbreaks coincide with extreme changes in weather conditions, normally, towards the rainy season and start of the Siberian High (cold months).

3. Typhoid cases are higher during the rainy season, particularly when there is a flood. It is the floodwater, mixed with sewage and other organic waste that carries the pathogenic bacterium, Escherichia coli.

4. Dengue Fever mosquito larvae, Aedes egypti may aestivate in the dry season. But once rains come it starts breeding in empty bottles, old tires, basins and clogged gutters. Rain and flood enhance the population and spread of mosquitoes, which spread not only dengue but malaria, too.~
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Why are water treatment facilities spreading super bugs even after the water has been treated? Is chlorine an effective water disinfectant?

Experts are beginning to ponder these questions as water treatment plants are routinely found to be ineffective. New lab results show that specific infectious superbugs can now spread drug-resistant genes at water treatment plants.

- Red Ice Creations: Dispelling the Mythmakers
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