Electron micrograph image of E.coli is shown in a handout photo. MCR-1, a gene that makes bacteria resistant to the killing effects of antibiotics, has been detected in stored samples of E. coli collected in 2010 in Canada. Now scientists are wondering if the superbug gene had made its way into Canada even earlier - and just what that could mean. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Brian Coombes Laboratory, McMaster University)

COVID-19: Superbugs are keeping microbiologists up at night

Novel coronavirus likely won’t contribute to more superbugs, says UVIC professor

Superbugs – or antibiotic-resistant organisms – have been gaining attention around the globe.

“[It’s] something that keeps microbiologists up at nights,” says Matthew Little, an assistant professor at the University of Victoria’s school of public health and social policy. “We’re always trying to stay one step ahead.”

Antibiotics have been credited as one of the most important discoveries in modern medicine, saving millions of lives. While antibiotics kill most bacteria, some will survive and develop resistance.

It’s important to note it’s the bacteria, not the patient, that becomes resistant, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control. Even a healthy person who has never taken antibiotics can be infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“Eventually every bacterial pathogen will start to see micro-bacterial resistance,” Little explains, noting re-emerging diseases are essentially just diseases that have become resistant to normal treatments. “It’s an enormous concern moving forward.”

ALSO READ: Is COVID-19 a sign of things to come?

Little notes the increase in use of antibacterial cleaners caused by the COVID-19 pandemic likely won’t contribute to an increase in superbugs. If these cleaning protocols continue for years, he says it may have a small effect on future generations in terms of weakened immune systems.

What needs to be addressed to help keep superbugs in check, he says, is the irresponsible and unnecessary use of antibiotics around the globe.

Infections caused by viruses, including colds, influenza, croup, laryngitis, bronchitis and most sore throats, do not require antibiotics, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.


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