By Chris Barts
They are all around you, multiplying at astonishing rates, mutating each time. Their numbers are uncountable and their hosts unstoppable. They know only one law adapt or die, and they follow it to the letter, laughing in the face of all our attempts to stop them. Our toxins, useful for a while, lose their potency too soon, leaving us to face hordes of resistant enemies. They are bacteria, single-celled infectious agents, and all they need to make us sick is half a chance.
As I have said, we fight them using toxins. The toxins are of two types: antibiotics, which biologically prevent bacterial reproduction and are used internally, and antibacterials, which chemically kill the bacteria and are used externally. An example of antibiotic is penicillin, the wonder drug that saved so many lives in the early part of the century and is saving lives today. An example of an antibacterial is an iodine spray, like what people spray on open wounds to prevent infection. These two weapons, for weapons they are, when used in an intelligent way, can prevent or cure any bacterial disease on this planet.
Notice that I said intelligent. Using them indiscriminately, in ways they were never intended to be used, can only cause problems. The problem is a process as old as life: natural selection. If they are used the wrong way, bacteria inevitably survive. These bacteria are mutants, abnormally resistant to the weapon being used against them. They have equally resistant offspring, who have equally resistant offspring in turn, and so on, until there is a whole colony of resistant bacteria. To kill these, new weapons must be used. But if they are misused like the first weapon was, the same thing happens, and now the survivors are resistant to two weapons. This can happen again and again, until the bacteria are resistant to everything. These bacteria are called superbugs, and superbug versions of such old enemies like tuberculosis, strep throat, and Escheria coli are back to haunt us.
But using them intelligently is as easy as following instructions. For one, always follow all prescriptions to the letter, and ask your doctor if you have any problems. Secondly, never share prescription or self medicate with someone elses. Also, never ask for either type of medicine to fight a virus. A virus is a different type of life form entirely, and id completely unaffected by either medicine. Ask your doctor if you are unsure what causes a specific disease. Finally, trust your doctors. They know what they are doing.
Superbugs are among us. They can kill, as illustrated in the various E. coli outbreaks, and only need a way to get to your body. Antibacterials and antibiotics, if used in an intelligent way, can get to them first. We currently have some very advanced medicines at our disposal, and we are very much able to win this war on infection. But of all of them, only education is the weapon nothing else can become resistant to.