Super Bugs: Could They Cripple the Developing World?

Super bugs, or viruses and bacteria that are resistant to drugs and treatments have been a growing concern in many advanced countries. Still, super bugs have largely been a problem in countries where citizens have ample access to health care. Now, a drug resistant micro parasite that causes malaria has emerged in Cambodia. Is this an isolated anomaly, or sign that these microbes (Super bugs) are turning the tide of battle with humanity?

Super Bugs: Could They Cripple the Developing World?

In the never ending arms race between humans and Super bugs, mankind has been winning many of the battles, but still seems to be slowly losing the war. Simply put, some contagions are beginning to evolve more rapidly than our drugs. So far health specialists in the Western world have been largely able to prevent massive outbreaks of disease through better public health standards, quarantines, and large combinations of expensive and super advanced drugs.

Yet doctors working in the developing world will have little chance to access these kinds of resources. Most doctors will have access to only older generic drugs and more simple means of treatment. Public health standards are often low, facilitating the spread of diseases. On one hand, this reduces the risk of the emergence of a super bug, which acquires resistance to advanced drugs. On the other hand it limits options for doctors trying to heal patients.

Now, a highly drug resistant variant of the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium Falciparum has emerged across Cambodia. Malaria is largely a third world, tropical disease, rarely occurring in advanced nations, and seldom outside of the tropical sun belt.  While malaria is a deadly and serious disease that often requires medical attention, doctors around the world have been able to keep it in check with the drug Artemisinin.

The first reports of a drug resistant malaria came in 2008, though it has taken several years to confirm these findings and also determine that they were not isolated cases. Malaria is a wide spread disease, killing some 660,000 people per year, mostly in Africa, and can be caused by a number of micro-parasites.

Last year, another report found a rise in the occurrence of drug resistant HIV. In a region with poor health care standards and low levels of education, people often fail to take their drugs properly. Over time, this allows viruses to build up a resistance to the drugs. From here, the virus can spread from person to person and undermine efforts to treat AIDS.

Strains of multidrug resistant tuberculosis have also been appearing across the world, and are becoming a particular problem in India. TB is believed to have infected about one third of the world’s population, but is rarely fatal in advanced nations. New strains of drug resistant TB, however, are popping up in developing nations and proving to be particularly lethal.

Such super bugs could become a serious problem in the developing world. For one, doctors have fewer options in regards to drug treatments. If a doctor in Europe or the United States concludes that a virus or other contagion has built up an ability to resist a certain drug, they can try a different type of drug to treat it. In many countries across the world, doctors count themselves lucky if they have any sort of drugs at all.