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Some of the new flu medications may be able to help.

Basically Tamiflu just helps cut 1 or maybe 2 days off of the flu. It really isn't a cure per se, it just helps eliviate some of the symptoms. My fiance and I both got the flu at the same time. She took Tamiflu, which is quite expensive and I took the Walgreens no-name version of Theraflu and a ton of Gatorade. She maybe recovered a day before I did. From experience, when we get sick together we take almost the exact same time to recover. We now both religiously get vacinated at the begining of the season.

The only good thing to help stop a possible pandemic is to change the way the vaccines are covered. I think only 1 company produces the flu vaccine here in the US because of fears of liability suits since invariably if you innoculate enough people someone will get the flu and die. Hence they are produced in places like Europe and Asia. No matter how strict of a warning you put on it, you are still going to spend a gazillion defending against it. I seem to remember there are new ways of producing flu vaccines that don't involve the use of chicken eggs but the potential tort lawsuits have just about everyone scared of using the methods.

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There are very few antiviral drugs now, including against influenza. I recall reading not long ago that Chinese chicken farmers have routinely been giving their chickens a feed laced with one of those antiflu drugs (with the tacit support and approval of the Chinese gov't), in order to avoid massive chicken kills. The problem is that this creates the perfect environment for the bird flu to have developed resistance against that drug, which has apparently already happened, thereby making it useless for humans.

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There are very few antiviral drugs now, including against influenza. I recall reading not long ago that Chinese chicken farmers have routinely been giving their chickens a feed laced with one of those antiflu drugs (with the tacit support and approval of the Chinese gov't), in order to avoid massive chicken kills. The problem is that this creates the perfect environment for the bird flu to have developed resistance against that drug, which has apparently already happened, thereby making it useless for humans.

Darn deregulated capitalists, if only there were some government controls there. Oh wait....

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Darn deregulated capitalists, if only there were some government controls there. Oh wait....

Sorry but I forgot to put the </wisenheimer> tag on my comment. I hope nobody took it seriously. I was trying to use it to highlight the usual knee jerk reaction the left has. Yes, capitalism is the answer to solving the problem. As I mentioned, it's the fear that the industry has and domestic regulation in the US which prevents initiating a true cure for the problem that is preventing progress.

Also, any country which actively engages in slavery has no problem violating the hell out of intellectual property or any laws for that matter. It's that reason why I always think twice buying anything produced in China short of my SKS. Considering anyone who expresses anything but the party line stands a good chance of going to a prison run by the Chinese military that does nothing but crank out products that line the pockets of the generals and fund the military.

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On a similar note to this...

Over here in NZ, we have this treatment for various flu strains (including the bird flus). I cannot remember if it is the same one though.

Of course, in what is really mass hysteria, alot of people whom can afford it (and it is apparently very expensive) are rushing out and taking it now, even though there is no particular reason to worry urgently about bird flu at this moment.

The doctors are trying to get people to use the more traditional protections against flu, and leave this one until it is needed (ie when the bird flu is worth worrying about), as there is now a shortage of the stuff. And it is being wasted on flus which are much better managed by lesser drugs.

Lets hope the real thing does not hit while the stuff is REALLY hard to get hold of...

Edited by Prometheus98876
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...The likelihood of spreading quickly to a new host is vastly increased in these countries, chiefly due to two environmental conditions: overcrowding and filth. ... ...

There is really only ultimate solution ...The standard of living in these countries must be raised through their participation in the global economy and changes in their political structure. Only that will get at the root of the problems causing the diseases. You might think it surprising, but the ultimate answer to most infectious viral diseases is not drugs, not biomedical research, and not foreign aid. It is like one person trying to stamp out a spreading wildfire with a foot. These all treat the symptoms of the problem of many infectious diseases, not their root cause. New diseases will simply reappear.

Very true. Much of the media thrives on a good scare story. US readers aren't interested in a story about a disease in China. So, the press gives it a US-spin; and there is always an obliging prophet of doomsday who wants to be quoted.

The issue about filth remind me of a study about breast-milk/bottle-milk, where breast milk showed significantly better outcomes (sorry, I don't have a link/ref.). Turns out the study was done in Bangladesh and many of the mothers were in conditions such that bottled milk was simply not as sterile as breast milk. (I remember a pediatrician saying that e-coli in bottled milk left out of a refrigerator doubles every 20 minutes.) The point is not if breast milk is better or not, only that conditions in some of these countries are so different from those in the US.

How's this as a CDC theme: "Poverty is a primary vector of disease."

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scottkursk, you said "Sorry but I forgot to put the </wisenheimer> tag on my comment. I hope nobody took it seriously."

Not at all! LOL. Just trying to present the situation in a light that most probably hadn't thought about. It's very sad how many of these new strains are popping up everywhere when they are totally preventable. Of course, there are random virulent things that just happen to take hold, like the flu pandemic of 1918, that started in a military hospital in Philly, but these crazy bird flus are obviously a case of it happening over and over due to environmental conditions that are totally preventable in developed countries. I mean, geeze, how many of these new strains of virulent flu have developed since SARS a few years ago? A dozen? two dozen? And probably plenty more before the media showed up when it got really bad.

Poverty is indeed a vector of disease. Just look at the state of this country before everyone had plumbing and antibiotics. I've heard it said that the majority of the casualties of the Civil War were not on the battlefield. They were due to infection of weakened or wounded individuals.

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One of the other things that is causing the problems with the rise of so called superbugs is the widespread use, or rather misuse of antibiotics. People used to get perscriptions for antibiotics even if they weren't effective or would eliviate the problem any quicker. I remember having an allergy and when I went to the doctor I'd get a shot and a two week perscription for an antibiotic.

Like most people I'd take it for a week until my allergies subsided and then my mom wouldn't make me take any more. Of course, all that does is build up a resistance to the antibiotic in my body and any bugs I may have had are now resistant. The other day my office was busy passing around a broncitis like bug. The people that went to their doctors got drugs and got over it at about the same speed as people who just did nothing (like me).

One of my employees passed asked if I wanted something to stop my coughing. They then showed my the handkerchief full of Cipro. They said take just a few and your cold will be over. Cipro is used to treat Anthrax amongst other things. So just what we need, people taking otherwise strong antibiotics and having their bodies build up resistance is the one drug that would treat Anthrax. :lol: I tried to explain to them about Cipro and what taking it and not taking it correctly could cause but they just shrugged and said any time they had a cold their cousin gave them a bunch a long time ago and it works. I really wanted to bang my head against the wall but 20 years from now they will get some bug and wonder why they can't get rid of it.

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Death isn't really a small inconvenience for anyone. "Thinking ahead" will not protect you from drug resistant bacteria, since they are everywhere. There are no precautions, that's scottkursk's point.

This brings up the interesting issue of something that is going on in the pollution thread, which is: To what extent can your freedom be a potential initiation of force on others?

Aaaanyway, this thread is losing its original intention, so I'll move ahead in that vein of being tangential. :thumbsup:

Interesting historical notes on the importance of fungi (my favorite organisms and subject of study):

The first antibiotic was discovered during WWII practically by chance by a very perceptive man named Alexander Fleming, who noticed the receding growth of bacterial culture around a contaminant fungus, Penicillium. Thus, penicillin was "born." Thousands of lives were saved on the allied front. Since then, most of our antibiotics have been harvested from fungi or are directly modified from fungal metabolites. They work because fungi are closer relatives to humans than bacteria, and the drugs don't harm our own cells. (Unfortunately, this makes fungal diseases very hard to combat because the same drugs which would be active against the fungi are also active against human tissues.)

[Mod's note: This resulted in discussion that was split into a separate thread. - sNerd]

Edited by softwareNerd
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Death isn't really a small inconvenience for anyone. "Thinking ahead" will not protect you from drug resistant bacteria, since they are everywhere. There are no precautions, that's scottkursk's point.

No precautions against bacteria?

You joke.

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No precautions against bacteria?

You joke.

Howard Hughes did a good job of protecting himself from bacteria at the end of his life. Honestly, I'm not trying to be a smart alec here. But to protect yourself from bacteria and germs, you really do have to isolate yourself completely from any possible contagion.

I take my tetnus shot every 10 years because I scrounge in junk yards for parts for my Z car. I shake hands quite frequently with clients. It happens 20 times a day for me. So I keep a bottle of Purel in my desk. Problem is, evidence does suggest I may be actually contributing to the problem. People using lightweight antibacterial soaps etc has lead some bacteria to evolve into stronger bacteria. It's their biological job. Doctors are being forced to use stronger and stronger soaps to keep from spreading infections from one patient to another because the old soaps, which are now over the counter, just don't cut the mustard anymore.

Again, the solution is evasive and raises interesting moral questions.

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I'm always suspicious about doomsday scenarios. Not to say they're all wrong (New Orleans did get a Cat-5 after all), but there are so many people shouting wolf. The only doomsday scenario related to my own profession was "Y-2K". In the early 1990's I would have been alarmed at how people were writing software without thinking about Y-2K. However, in the late 1990's I saw what people were doing to prepare, in my own firm and others, and realized that there would unlikely be any long-lasting problem.

The doomsday scenario that "indiscriminate antibiotic use is severely endangering us" may be true. If it is, there may be a case for laws.

However, since some of you have studied this, I'd like to ask about the likelihood of scenario itself. Here are some questions that come to mind:

  1. By what standard does one measure the strength of an antibiotic? I understand that a higher dose might be stronger, but how does one measure strength when comparing two different antibiotics? Is one really "stronger" than another, or merely "different"? Hospitals will sometimes do a culture and find the exact bacteria infecting a patient; this allows the doctor to prescribe the antibiotic which is best at tackling that particular bacteria. Wouldn't this imply that sometimes two antibiotics are different rather than stronger/weaker.
  2. Is there a theory that postulates an upper-limit to antibiotic strength? If so, does the theory also say that at some point the bacteria (or other agent of disease) will grow stronger than that upper-limit?
  3. If there is no such upper-limit, then is there a reason why the changes in bacteria would be faster, slower or the same as the changes in drugs. As I understand it, the bacteria change and so people have to change their drugs. Is there a reason to believe that human beings will be less able to react to changes in bacteria? In other words, why are bacteria changing faster than in the past?

Edited by softwareNerd
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So I keep a bottle of Purel in my desk. Problem is, evidence does suggest I may be actually contributing to the problem. People using lightweight antibacterial soaps etc has lead some bacteria to evolve into stronger bacteria. It's their biological job. Doctors are being forced to use stronger and stronger soaps to keep from spreading infections from one patient to another because the old soaps, which are now over the counter, just don't cut the mustard anymore.

Purel uses alcohol to sanitize, not the chemical that is present in antibacterial soaps and so forth. No bacteria can develop a resistance to alcohol: it is a sterilizing agent. It's similar to what would happen if you washed your hands with bleach. Bleach kills EVERYTHING. (It's also much worse than alcohol for your skin.)

If you're worried about resistant bacteria, the rule is: use sterilizing agents when possible on your hands, surfaces, etc. Hot water, soap, and scrubbing are sufficient for dishes and so forth: the point is to get the dirt off them so that bacteria don't breed, not to sterilize them.

I have heard both ways on the issue of whether you should cut up meat on a plastic or wooden cutting board. Wood supposedly absorbs the juices because it is porous . . . but I've heard that plastic is worse because it doesn't dry out like wood does. From personal experience, I'd say use wood if you don't have a dishwasher, because it's easier to get the wooden cutting boards clean in the sink, but you can't put wood in the dishwasher and the heat and cleaning action will get everything off a plastic cutting board.

For viral agents: most viruses die much more quickly than bacteria when exposed to the air. The most effective prevention against viral transmission is WASHING YOUR HANDS. Use soap, and warm water, and wash them for at least 15 seconds, preferably thirty. Make sure you get your wrists and under your fingernails as well. Anti-bacterial soap won't make a difference either way, once again, the point is just to get whatever it is off your hands and down the sink.

If you work in an office, get Chlorox™ wipes and hit keyboards, mice, telephone headsets and number pads, doorknobs, toilet seats, and faucet handles. Cleaning them once or twice a day is usually sufficient: bleach has some staying power. Try to stay away from sick people so they don't cough or sneeze on you and spray droplets of infected saliva. Take Vitamin C; it's water-soluable so you can take as much as you like and I've heard substantial anecdotal evidence that it helps reduce the severity of viral illnesses. Also, it may help strengthen your mucous membranes (not sure about this) and I KNOW it helps prevent nosebleeds, all good things.

AORN has some guidelines for preventing the spread of prion-related diseases, even (CvJ would be one example), but unfortunately they all involve high-pressure steam sterilization and lots of bleach. One guideline states that if you have a complex but not especially expensive (under $500) piece of equipment you're better off just throwing it away if you have reason to suspect contamination; cleaning it is too difficult.

If you do get sick, treat the symptoms so you can function and see a doctor. Don't take antibiotics unless they've performed some sort of culture in order to be able to actually tell you that you have a bacterial infection. At the very least, it will knock out the benevolent bacteria in your digestive system and you don't need to have problems eating in addition to being sick. If you have a low-grade fever (104 degrees or less) don't try to reduce it; this is your body's way of becoming a less viable host for organisms. Surprisingly, a few degree fever can make a big difference. Instead, get some wooly blankets and hot tea.

That's all the illness-prevention advice I can think of. It works pretty well for me: now that I don't have a germy housemate and I wash my hands religiously I am almost never sick.

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[*]Is there a theory that postulates an upper-limit to antibiotic strength? If so, does the theory also say that at some point the bacteria (or other agent of disease) will grow stronger than that upper-limit?

As I understand it, the bacteria change and so people have to change their drugs. Is there a reason to believe that human beings will be less able to react to changes in bacteria? In other words, why are bacteria changing faster than in the past?

Good questions! Here's the deal. Resistance is not so much a matter of strength on the part of antibiotics. ALL antibiotics are fungal metabolites (or another group called Actinomycetes, which are filamentous bacteria themselves) and usually interfere with cell wall synthesis of bacteria. That's their mode of action. Various mutations have cropped up in these bacteria to allow modifications to their "anti-antibiotic" genes, which make them resistant to one or more drugs. So it's not necessarily a case of stronger or weaker antibiotics. Make a barrier and an organism will find a way around it. It's only a matter of time and we will always be dealing with a race against pathogens.

The problem is, we are kind of running out of ideas, since the "idea" of an antibiotic wasn't really ours in the first place: we just extracted metabolites from fungi that were killing bacteria, figured out how their mode of action, and we've been using them ever since. Sure, humans have made modifications to functional groups and so on, but unless we come up with a whole different class of drugs that have a different mode of action, we may be in trouble.

Any novel answer is likely to come from something in nature - some other organism that also needs to fight these bacteria. Pharmaceutical companies invest a LOT of money in bioprospecting for drugs. Since we only know 1% or so of the species that are out there, there's certainly hope that some novel organism out there holds the key to fighting our bacterial enemies. ;) But obviously this kind of work takes a lot of time.

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I have heard both ways on the issue of whether you should cut up meat on a plastic or wooden cutting board. Wood supposedly absorbs the juices because it is porous . . . but I've heard that plastic is worse because it doesn't dry out like wood does.

What I recall reading some years ago, was some kind of study that showed that there are chemicals in the wood that act to kill the bacteria, unlike plastic. There's some logic to that, because plants have developed their own versions of immune systems so that they don't get eaten up by bacteria, fungi, viruses, insects, etc. While the wood in a cutting board is dead tissue it may still retain some of those compounds.

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http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,...00.html?cnn=yes

The article above is on a new drug to combat bird flu viruses, tamiflu.

Two things. First, a correction: antibiotics affect some component of the protein synthesis machinery, not that of cell walls.

Secondly, bacterial resistance to drugs is not a new phenomenon. It's just evolution in action. Shortly after penicillin began to be used, resistance was noted, leading to the search for new drugs. Today, roughly 80% of Staphylococcus strains are resistant to penicillin. The problem, as I noted above, is that just a few decades later, we are running out of novel drugs and variants of old antibiotics to "sic" on the bacteria. There are only so many options for targeting the protein synthesis pathway, and many of these fungal metabolites don't work because they affect human cells as well. The fungi have special mechanisms to protect their own cells from these toxins, which they use in their warfare against other organisms.

Unconquered, you are right, there are many woods that possess anti-bacterial properties: woods high in things like tannins and other phenolics are rot-resistant. This is why the American chestnut, Castanea dentata, was such a great tree. :)

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Um, antibiotics don't affect viruses, Liriodendron; the article is correct in what this anti-viral medication does. The outside coating of a virus functions in such a manner as to enable them to pass through cell walls by making the cell "think" that the virus belongs inside; then they take over the functioning of the cell and get it to make more viruses until it explodes. Bacteria, on the other hand, basically just eat things. They are little cells themselves. In fact, different bacteria are classified by what they eat: bacteriophages eat other bacteria, for example.

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Being a PhD student in the field of biology, I understand what antibiotics are. :)

I was not the person who brought up the issue of antibiotics and what organisms they target. I was just taking off on two separate issues that were started in this thread and now exist in two separate threads. Perhaps I should have posted this in the other thread specifically discussing government regulation of drugs. :)

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