The Rise of Superbugs, Antibiotic Resistance, and MS
I am living with an unenviable reality. An antibiotic-resistant, hospital-acquired infection that I developed two decades ago has reappeared. Before my multiple sclerosis diagnosis, I had a spinal cord stimulator implanted for pain control. Although the stimulator was removed shortly afterward, the infection remained.
This infection presents itself when I am run-down or stressed. I develop cyst-like growths on my forehead and chin. While they are generally clear, they have the potential to become irritated and angry. Steroid creams alleviate the discomfort. I have yet to find an antibiotic to heal the infection itself. But I have learned to manage the symptoms. I am cautious about taking any antibiotic medications as I know that despite medical necessity, they build a tolerance. I find this to be incredibly disconcerting as someday my life may depend on the efficacy of an antibiotic.
But will a sufficiently strong one exist then? It’s a question without an answer.
As an autoimmune disease, multiple sclerosis leaves us vulnerable to infection. Nevertheless, this is an epidemic without exclusion. I recently read a news alert from the World Health Organization concerning the lack of funding and innovation in the development of new antibiotics.
Current antibiotics are no match for the growing number of superbugs, and without newer, stronger antibiotics, superbugs will continue to dominate. While bugs prey on hosts with compromised immune systems, superbugs are potentially life-threatening. Some bacteria are almost impossible to treat with existing antibiotics. Overuse is a significant contributor to this conundrum.
My disease-modifying therapy, rituximab, is an immunosuppressant medication, which means it suppresses my already weakened immunity, leaving me particularly vulnerable to developing an infection. This could be from a common illness such as a cold, urinary tract infection, or kidney infection. These infections are not only harder to treat but also tougher on my body. Something that is innocuous to a healthy individual has the potential to take me down.
I take every precaution possible and encourage you to do the same. These precautions include proper medicinal habits when given the occasional antibiotic. I take them exactly as prescribed. I take the full dose, even if I feel better long before the course is finished. I do not take them without a prescription. Above all, I listen to my physician.
Antibiotics have changed since the discovery of penicillin in the 1920s. Who could have imagined before the development of antibiotics that a common mold would save millions of lives? But one century later, we need another lifesaver. It could be an antibiotic to destroy superbugs or medication to strengthen immunity.
One important question remains: Who will save us from ourselves?
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.