The first time I had sex, I got a urinary tract infection and was pretty sure I was about to die. The fun twist was I wasn’t! The dark twist was I’d become intimately familiar with those three little words over the next decade.
Here’s the worst twist, though: Dangerous bacteria adapt to our antibiotics so they can continue to haunt our bodies after we try to kill them. This is unacceptable cockroach-like behavior, if you ask me, and it’s why every so often we have to counter-adapt with new drugs. As antibiotic use increases over time — or is administered improperly — so does the urgency for new drug development. This week the World Health Organization did something it’s never done before: they released a list of the top bacteria that require new antibiotics.
Topping the list is Escherichia coli also known as E. coli also known as the little fuckers behind loads of food recalls, UTIs and tons of other gut issues. When these bacteria go untreated in the human body, they can cause, “blood and lung infections that are often fatal.” According to New Scientist, E. coli take a heavy toll on hospitals and nursing homes.
In the case of UTIs, the news that E. coli treatment is getting less effective is particularly worrisome. They are one of the most common infections that require antibiotics in the world, with half of women having at least one over the course of their lives. Or just me having like a million of them over the course of my one life (I swear to G they aren’t my fault, I have a short urethra!).
“Functioning antibiotics make UTIs only a minor annoyance,” reports New Scientist, “but if antibiotics fail, the infection can spread into the kidneys and bloodstream, and even become life-threatening.”
The good news is, our bodies should not become resistant to these bacteria as long as we use them as prescribed. Only in some cases is this not true, like when antibiotics are used as “growth promotors in livestock” (barf), thus inhabiting humans with antibiotics we are not supposed to be taking. Nightmare. This is why FDA laws and regulations around antibiotic use on farms has tightened in the last decade.
The problem is antibiotics are not huge moneymakers for drug companies (as compared to drugs we take over longer periods) and thus their development is not a huge priority (barf again). Head of Health Systems and Innovations at the WHO Marie-Paule Kieny says this is unacceptable. “[P]reventing antibiotic resistance through proper use of existing drugs is still vital – but we also really need to invent some new ones,” she says.
REMINDERS FOR YOUR FRIDAY: Take your antibiotics only when (and exactly as) prescribed, pay attention to what’s going on with the FDA so you can cast your vote with your wallet and on the ballet whenever possible and, most urgently, pee after sex!!!