The global problem of antibiotic resistance is fast becoming one of the major scientific issues of modern times. The development of new antibiotics is slow and difficult work but bacterial resistance is decreasing our arsenal of existing drugs posing a catastrophic threat as ordinary infections become untreatable.
Preventive action is needed to help reduce resistance. The Longitude Prize aims to improve our ability to target infections more precisely by encouraging the development of new tools.
The bacteria listed below covers a range of diseases and levels of resistance. All of them present a threat to humans in some way or another. For example, Tuberculosis are already a huge challenge to overcome in their own right and will only become harder to control as their resistance to antibiotics grow.
Illness caused : Sore throat, Skin disorders
Streptococcus Pyogenes can be found in 5% to 15% of all humans, residing in the lungs or throat without causing any harm. Once you have an infection of this bacteria, it can cause a range of diseases, ranging from sore throat and impetigo up to scarlet fever.
Illness caused : Gonorrhoea
Gonorrhoea is a spread through sexual contact and causes various infections on both men and women. Certain strains of the bacteria have shown resistance to antibiotics and have mutated over the course of 50 years or so, slowly adapting different resistances as doctors change their approach by using different antibiotics to counter the disease. The small hairs or “pili” on the bacteria act like hooks that are used to move the cell and attach it to other healthy cells. Using the “pili”, the cell can exert a force 100,000 times its weight
Illness caused : Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis has been known by many names including scrufola and the white plague. It has been a huge cause of death and distraction throughout history, with evidence found in bodies estimated to be around 9,000 years old. While instances of the disease reduced to only 5,000 years in the UK in 1987, the increase in antibiotic resistance has seen a rise in cases in the early 90s.
Illness caused : Pneumonia, Meningitis, UTI
Acinetobacter Baumanni have become resistant to many antibiotics and like other bacteria are currently being countered most effectively through thorough hygiene in healthcare situations. The bacteria can survive in harsh conditions for long periods of time so are often difficult to deal with in weaker patients, and coupled with increasing resistance presents a tough challenge when encountered by doctors.
Illness caused : Diarrhoea, UTI, Meningitis
E.Coli can cause serious illness and most commonly lead to severe food poisoning as well as meningitis and infections. A high level of resistance to antibiotics has been found across several strains of E.Coli and while it is rare to find these strains causing illness, it is another concerning example of a bacteria that has the potential to cause problems if our use of antibiotics goes unchecked.
Illness caused : Lung infections, Pneumonia
Klebsiella Pneumoniae can cause a range of infections and has proven to be very resistance to a range of antibiotics. Primarily affecting middle-aged and older men with weakened immune systems. This bacteria can be very dangerous but is mostly ‘opportunistic’ and is far less likely to affect healthy adults.
Illness caused : Diarrhoea
It is one of the known ‘superbugs’ due to its consistent presence in hospitals around the world. This bacteria is an easily spread type of diarrhoea that can lead to complications in the colon. Several significant outbreaks of this bacteria have made the news in the UK and despite a major effort in improving hygiene in the hospitals.
Illness caused : Pneumonia, Various infections
Pseudomonas Aeruginosa shows an innate ability to develop resistance to antibiotics. It affects humans that are already critically ill and cause serious complications in the treatment of AIDS, cancer, Cystic Fibrosis patients.
Illness caused : Pneumonia,
Discovered in 1949, this bacteria causes onions to rot. It can be very dangerous to humans in the worst cases. While it is mostly responds well to treatment with a combination of antibiotics. Burkholderia Cepacia has been shown to have high levels of resistance to several types of antibiotics and is able to survive in extreme conditions.It is dangerous to humans with pre-conditions such as cystic fibrosis.
Illness caused : Pneumonia, Flesh eating disease
More commonly known as MRSA ( Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus ). This ‘superbug’ is very easily to spread through human contact and can cause a range of illnesses from skin disorders to deadly diseases, such as neningitis and pneumonia.