Persistent and multi-drug resistant, the new candida auris superbug is not a pandemic yet, and despite fears of its rampant onset, is not going to be.
Worrying because unlike most funguses, it seems to spread from person to person – a yeast that colonises the skin and therefore transfers on contact.
It’s also nosocomial, particularly present in hospitals where it targets the already ill – those patients with surgical incisions or intravenous feeds, apertures in the body that provide the way in.
That makes it a real hazard to patients and health care givers – easily contaminating clothing, linen, bedrails, chairs, catheters and all kinds of surrounding equipment. A “touch it if you dare” situation requiring isolation if possible – a strain on already stretched NHS resources.
Hard to come clean
To make things more difficult, candida auris is also resilient against the usual cleaning agents. Recommended is chlorine-based treatment at 1,000ppm dilution – as strong as can be risked without harming surroundings.
Even so, the bug persists, frequently demanding action the hard way – repeated deep cleans and the closing down of ward and ICU facilities among the 35 hospitals affected.
One of them however knows it’s got the bug beaten – showing the way for others to get themselves candida auris-free. We can’t tell which hospital it is, as all work of this nature has to be confidential.
Suffice it to say though, that after two deep cleans and much worry, one particular hospital has solved the problem overnight and banished candida auris from its corridors.
Clearing up with mist
Misting up affected areas with ionised hydrogen peroxide – a quick and effective way to neutralise ALL germs immediately.
This process does require facilities to be completely vacated – though it is possible to section off areas with protective PVC sheeting and handle the job piecemeal.
Once clear, the hydrogen peroxide is released into the air, to spread in all directions and against all surfaces. The ionising forces wide dispersal and electrostatic attraction to pathogens – clamping to them like magnets and ripping them apart by oxidising them.
The hospital involved made one phone call and 24 hours later the job was done – all clear and back to normal, ready for the onset of winter. No candida auris, no anything – sterilised, safe and secure.
Good to know we have effective defences – especially with authorities like Forbes magazine and America’s CDC regarding candida auris as a global threat.
The wonder-drugs of the Twentieth Century don’t work any more.
We are at hazard
Fifty years of pumping antibiotics into everything that moves have caused them to run out of fizz. Bacteria have learnt how to survive them – they have become resistant. Swallow a bunch of antibiotics right now and chances are they won’t do anything.
Not against the kind of infection we’re seeing today – the superbugs that medicine can’t clobber.
With rogue illnesses like MRSA, salmonella, streptococcus, c.difficile, TB, gonorrhoea and e.coli flying around, routine surgery is already an iffy issue. Soon it won’t be possible at all. The bugs will develop similar immunity to the few remaining effective drugs – and last failsafe will have gone for good.
Yes there are still a few antibiotics of last resort – the carbapenems, used in the treatment of the already-resistant MRSA.
But the bad guys are already at the door. Newest kid on the block is CRE – carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae – a resistant strain that includes klebsiella species and escherichia coli (e. coli), both of which are normal gut bacteria but can go hostile.
OK, the guns don’t work, so it’s down to bare hands. Not as impossible as it seems – and we’re not dead yet.
Our hands have it
Since we use our hands for everything, they are pretty much our most major source of infection. Every touch brings a transfer of dirt and germs, microscopic so they still LOOK clean – but potentially deadly if they get into our bodies.
But wash hands, and most of the time, the problem goes away.
A good proper session with soap and hot water will get rid of 99.9% of the germs we all carry. It works for doctors and nurses – and it’s the major reason why every visit to hospital doesn’t land us at death’s door.
But it has to be a genuine wash – not hands under the tap for a few seconds, which is all most of us attempt. We don’t know the dangers, so we’re playing with our lives. There is no failsafe. We can’t rely on antibiotics to rescue us any more.
The other thing we need to do is sterilise the spaces around us. It’s not just our hands that are covered in germs – 10 million on each in the average office – it’s every single thing in our lives, including the air around us.
Yes, the air full of germs all of the time, but not always in concentrated clouds – and yes, day-to-day our immune systems can normally cope with it.
Except we spend most of our time indoors, particularly in winter – sharing the same space, breathing the same atmosphere. Which means the smallest thing about us can easily influence everyone else.
Interacting with each other
And it does. Every one of us trails around a personal germ cloud – billions and billions bacteria, viruses, smells, dead skin cells and other body detritus – everywhere we go.
We may not pass anything on to each other – that usually requires physical contact or breathing something in. But every day our clouds mingle and influence each other, creating a germ threshold that lingers behind us after we’re gone – and is there waiting for us again in the morning.
If any one of us has a weakness or underlying condition, we are at risk. Harmless to ourselves, but a possible threat to others. But not if the place is sterile. No germs, no risk – everybody’s safe.
And we need to be.
Our bodies are more sensitive than in years gone by – prone to allergies, vulnerable to even the tiniest of germ threats. Plus living and working on top of each other as our modern lifestyles demand, we’re much more contagious – if one of us catches something , we all do.
Which is why regular sessions with a Hypersteriliser are becoming essential after we go home at night.
A nifty gadget like a sort of posh wheelie-bin, it creates a super-fine dry mist of ionised hydrogen peroxide that spreads everywhere – actively pushing into remote spaces, cracks, crevices, all the places that never usually get cleaned.
As it does so, its electrically-charged particles reach out and grab viruses and bacteria, attracted exactly like magnets. The germs die, oxidised by oxygen atoms that rip their cell structure to shreds.
Forty minutes and the place is sterile – the mild, non-toxic 6% mist leaving only oxygen and water, which evaporates before it touches anything. Oh, and a microscopically thin layer of antimicrobial silver on everything – a sterile barrier that lasts up to a week or more.
How does this help the Doc?
Well if we make a habit of deliberately avoiding germs, half her problem has gone away. Prevention is better than cure – fewer patients means more time for care, more effort available for saving lives.
Yes, it’s a challenge without antibiotics. But keeping clean – sterile clean – is the one sure way of avoiding infection. If we rediscover hygiene, we’ll make it.
Ah yes, because it’s high fat and a major cause of atherosclerosis – bacon, butter, brown sauce and bread – overdo them and you’re dead.
Actually no – unless you pig out something stupid.
It’s how the bacon gets that way – solid, meaty taste you can’t resist. What happens out on the farm.
A disaster already happening
Antibiotics is how.
Because there’s a lot of money in pigs. So you’ll find them crowded together in high-intensity breeding sheds. Always dirty, often unhygienic – lots of pigs living close to each other, lots of pig poo – a real mission to keep healthy.
Which is where the antibiotics come in. Lots of healthy pigs, a sure-fire success.
Plus there’s a bonus. Antibiotics in their food makes pigs bulk up, especially from young. Bigger, heavier pigs – even more money.
It works the same with poultry – all those mega chicken sheds the size of aircraft hangers. Put antibiotics in their feed and you get bigger, better chickens – they even eat less too. Higher profits, lower overheads.
Which is why antibiotics are used across the board in all livestock production. Beef and dairy cattle. Lamb and mutton. A massive chunk of the food industry on an industrial scale – 65,000 tons a year world wide and rising.
One heck of a health time bomb.
Over-used and useless
Because when it comes to the purpose antibiotics were designed for – fighting disease in human beings – they’re beginning not to work any more. Over-use and abuse have trained bacteria how to be resistant. Our medicines are useless.
Mind you, we’re not exactly innocent ourselves. Jumping up and down with every minor ailment, demanding antibiotics from the Doc like they’re Smarties. Not finishing the course half the time when we get them – teaching bugs to be even more resistant.
“Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat. If we don’t act now, any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can’t be treated by antibiotics.”
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies
Catastrophic, yes. But that’s not the time bomb.
The real one is ticking away in our kids.
Because what do antibiotics do? They either destroy bacteria, or slow down their growth – bactericidal or bacteriostatic.
Bacteria are us
But it’s a slowly dawning fact of life that we ourselves are more bacteria than human – colonised over our whole evolution and outnumbered 10 to 1. In our gut alone, there are more than 100 trillion of them – doing the heavy work of digesting, producing proteins and regulating our immune systems.
Which means when that antibiotic capsule dissolves in our gut, it’s like a nuclear explosion. 100 trillion bacteria – boom! Yes, it gets rid of the bad guys, but there’s collateral damage too – good guys caught in the crossfire.
No wonder there’s side effects – cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea. All from fighting infection in a hip operation – what’s that about?
Yeah, that’s what happens when we take a pill. But that’s not the time bomb either.
You see, we’ve all of us been taking antibiotics continuously since birth – and even before.
They’re in the food we eat – the beef, pork, mutton and poultry. They’re in our vegetables too – from soil enriched by animal fertiliser. No getting away from it, we’re full of the things.
But hold it.
If bacteria regulate our immune system and antibiotics destroy them, what does that do to the rest of us?
System under threat
Plays havoc with our defences, right? Takes down our protective shield at exactly the same time that bad guy bacteria learn how to be invincible. Double whammy BOOM-BOOM!
Now flash-back to why those young piggy-wigs get antibiotics in the first place. Not the health reason, the money reason.
To bulk them up. Bigger, better, fatter pigs.
And don’t forget the “from young” bit. So their bodies LEARN to be fat.
Just like we humans do – and have been doing – more and more visibly throughout the last generation. Learning to get fat. Shaped that way by antibiotics. Hello Twenty-First Century obesity.
Yeah, you got it. We’ve done it to ourselves and keep doing it. Getting in deeper and paying the price.
We start as babies – our immune systems shaped and trained by our mothers’ own metabolism. Her bacteria teach ours – about good and bad. Some of her passive bad guys even teaching us about bogies we’ve neither of us met.
But she’s got antibiotics in her system from the food she eats – and so have we. Not even born and we’re already picking up bad habits.
It gets worse
There’s an even bigger hiccup if the birth goes iffy. Docs can save Mum and us by doing a C-section – a caesarean to get us out of trouble. It stops the bacterial learning curve though. Once that umbilical cord is cut, her system can’t teach us any more. We’ve got to go with what we’ve got.
Then whoops, what happens if she goes onto feeding us with formula? Any last-minute briefing sessions in her breast milk are denied to us – our bacteria have to make do with an incomplete picture. They don’t know how to recognise dangers, or what to do when they happen.
Yeah, yeah – but the world’s a healthier place than it was generations ago. Clean water, fewer diseases, better living conditions, less chance to get sick.
Except antibiotics have graunched our systems.
Our bacteria don’t see threats, so they make up phantoms. Reacting to things that aren’t there with very real symptoms – allergies, asthma. When you were growing up, how many kids did you know who broke out in hives from a peanut butter sandwich? Or went into full anaphylactic shock?
And now we’re getting fat, too. Never mind what we eat, we bulk up – like our bodies were trained to from birth.
We can’t live with them, we can’t live without them.
But not all bad
Except that’s not entirely true.
Inside our bodies we’re OK, protected by our own bacteria. It’s the outside nasties we’ve got to handle – viruses, bacteria and fungi, waiting to have a go at us.
Washing our hands is a start. Getting rid of germs on our skin we might ingest otherwise.
Sterilising our surroundings is our best follow-up. Misting up our living space with ionised hydrogen peroxide from a Hypersteriliser – oxidising all germs to nothing, keeping ourselves safe.
People still catch germs, people still die – but we can stop viruses and bacteria any time we like, just by pressing a button.
It’s shocking, but it’s true.
Any germ you like, we can kill it dead, before it starts anything, right now.
So why are people falling ill and catching infections, when it’s all preventable?
It’s easier to do nothing. And save the money.
There’s no crisis to worry about, so why bother?
Unless you happen to be one of those with MRSA, e. coli, aspergillis, c. difficile, campylobacter, HIV-AIDS, or any of the other nasties that can kill you.
Because the cruel truth is, you didn’t need to be exposed to any of them in the first place.
Sure, medical science can do amazing things to help when you’re ill. But how many wash their hands of proactively staying healthy? Of preventing infections before they start?
It’s not difficult to sterilise the space around us. To kill all the germs and make sure it’s safe to be there. We’ve known how to do it since the Nineteenth Century.
The cheapest and easiest is to oxidise them. Out in the open, before they invade your body, viruses and bacteria are unprotected. Shove extra atoms of oxygen at them, and you rip their cell structure to pieces. They’re gone, permanently.
And with an oxidiser like ionised hydrogen peroxide, you can mist-spray a whole room to sterilise the moving space and all surfaces – tables, chairs, worktops, beds and floors – for around 80p. Not exactly buying an aircraft carrier, is it?
Or if you really want to blast germs out of existence, use ozone.
It works the same way, but is even more oxygen rich. Which gives you any level from simply removing smells and odours, to the industrial strength triple whammy that purifies chemical pollutants after shale oil fracking.
Too chemical for you?
Against viruses and bacteria, we even have a death ray – ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) it’s called in the trade. Five to ten minutes direct exposure and germs are history, their DNA twisted and reduced to nothing.
So why aren’t we using all these things? In hospitals, in restaurants, in foodstores, in schools, or even in our own homes? Do we have a death wish?
Because without them, we’re at risk every second of the day. Billions and billions of microbes surround every one of us all the time, yet we’re so full of ourselves we do nothing.
And all the while, doctors are going nuts because they know that antibiotics are starting not to work any more. The germs have found a way round them. They’ve developed a resistance. We’re back to the Dark Ages.
And you’d better believe it. Cut yourself making a sandwich and infection could kill you.
Except it’s totally unnecessary.
Where’s the sense in dying for a BLT?
Come on now, we’ve all grown up, haven’t we? We clean our teeth, use deodorant, and wash our hands before and after we do everything. Stay healthy, that’s all we have to do.
Dammit, why shouldn’t we make a noise until every public place is properly protected in the same way it is cleaned every day? And public transport too – buses, trains, planes, ships – everywhere.
Make a stink, write to your MP.
Give those germs the same stinking treatment they give you.