Saturday, 14 January 2016

10:01 – It was 19 degrees colder this morning than yesterday morning, 37F (3C) versus 56F, with drizzle and fog. It’s to be like this for the next several days.

Lynn from B&T Tire called late yesterday afternoon. The Trooper was fixed and ready to pick up. It was a lower radiator hose. It had come loose from a clamp and come up against the power-steering belt, which cut a long slice into it. Lynn asked if the truck was overheating. I told him I’d been keeping an eye on it and it was behaving just as normal. It comes up to temperature pretty quickly after it’s started, and never gets above about a third of the way up the temp gauge. He was surprised, since he said there was only about a quart of coolant left in the system. He drained that, flushed the system, and pressure-tested it at 13PSIG for half an hour or so with nary a drip. So it’s good to go.

There was a first yesterday in the US, and not in a good way. A 70-year-old woman in Nevada died of a bacterial infection that was resistant to all 26 antibiotics that are approved for human use in this country. FTA:

Then you get sick, your immune system is down, and you take antibiotics for an infection. The antibiotics kill everything but the resistant bacteria, which have by now collected all the resistance genes and no competition. That’s how you get a pan-resistant infection.

The danger isn’t just that a single pan-resistant bacteria emerges and terrorizes the world. It’s that pan-resistant bacteria can keep emerging independently. The nightmare might go away, only to come back somewhere else.

We’re fast approaching the end of the antibiotic era of human history. If things continue as they are, antibiotics will continue becoming less effective overall, and more PDR bacterial pathogens will continue to emerge. Within a few more years, at most a couple of decades, antibiotics will become essentially useless.

Scientists are working on alternatives, including nanoscale machines that are essentially microscopic hunter-killer submarines. They’re programmed to seek out and destroy specific bacterial pathogens. Eventually, they’ll be programmable on-the-fly to the infectious microorganism affecting a particular patient. But that’s probably a decade or two away.

In the meantime, I suspect humanity’s best bet will be bacteriophage viruses, which are genetically engineered to target specific pathogens. The Soviets and now the Russians have been working on bacteriophages for decades, and have had some successes.

Ultimately, the answer isn’t going to be developing new classes of antibiotics that depend on chemical mechanisms to destroy pathogenic bacteria; it’ll be on methods to selectively destroy them physically. It’s like the difference between a housefly becoming immune to chemical pesticides versus becoming immune to a flyswatter. The former happens continually; the latter isn’t going to happen.


10:50 – I just got back from picking up the Trooper at B&T Tire. The total was $110.69. In Winston-Salem, it would probably have been two or three times that.