Rise of the Superbugs
Joel Beclu got a superbug following routine treatment for prostate cancer. “I lost touch with reality because of the painkillers,” he recalls. Joel’s life was only saved by rare antibiotics imported from overseas. With the discovery of antibiotics in the 1930s and 40s we became superhuman – able to survive chemotherapy, transplant surgery and intensive care. The loss of effective antibiotics would jeopardise all of that, since as Molecular Bioscientist Professor Matt Cooper tells us, “infectious disease kills more people than cancer.”
Without antibiotics surgery used to be the last line of defence against infection. Now the use of radical surgery is on the rise again. Nick Komilionis picked up a superbug in his home country of Greece. In the end all drugs failed him and his life was only saved by having his bowel surgically removed.
David Ricci was volunteering in a Calcutta slum when he was hit by a train, his leg badly mangled. He picked up superbug New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, or NDM1. Somehow David finally made it home to America where a toxic drug killed off the infection just before it killed him. Now he walks on a prosthetic leg, treating every day as though it was his last.