Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Science for Republicans: The spread of pig-borne disease 

I hasten to add that I'm talking real pigs here, not metaphorical ones:

The spread of a pig-borne disease in southwest China and the high death toll have thrown the spotlight on the widespread and indiscriminate use of antibiotics in Asia, giving the bacterium added resistance.

Streptococcus suis, which has rarely spread to humans in the past and should have been relatively easy to control if treated early with antibiotics, has infected 214 people in Sichuan province in recent weeks, killing 39 -- a mortality rate of nearly 20 percent.

"Streptococcus suis is not a very resistant bacterium -- we can normally kill it by penicillin. But the government has suggested using much stronger antibiotics... Maybe the bacterium has mutated to a more resistant strain," microbiology professor Li Mingyuan, of Sichuan University, told the South China Morning Post recently.

Scientists blame bacterial resistance in Hong Kong to improper and overprescription by doctors, many of whom readily dispense antibiotics to patients who may just have colds or the flu -- for which antibiotics are totally useless as they can't fight viruses.

"Bacteria are just living things, they want to live. If you put a lot of pressure using particular antibiotics, they will become resistant and continue to live. They will mutate, use all means to get around it," said microbiology professor Margaret Ip at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong.
(via AP)

Interesting, eh? Just as, over 100 years ago, Darwin was inspired to consider natural selection by observing and collating how animals like horses and dogs were bred by us for desired characteristics, so today we can see evolutionary pressures in action, as bacteria evolve to survive our antibiotics. Bacteria just want to live...

Unless, of course, you're an I(diot's) D(elight) true believer. In that case, bacterial resistance is just coincidence or too complicated to understand, like a watch in the field. So, ID fans, be sure to use weak antibiotics next time you're in the hospital! After all, iatrogenic disease is all part of God's plan....

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