The Most Dangerous Drug-Resistant Diseases

In the last century alone, medical advancements have led to the total eradication of some of humanity's deadliest diseases. However, not all diseases can currently be treated, and antibiotic resistance is on the rise worldwide. Many potentially fatal diseases are evolving, mutating to combat the medical treatments we've developed to keep them at bay. This is a serious problem as powerful, drug-resistant diseases could cause devastating epidemics. Statistics show that once easily treatable ailments are increasingly dangerous as there are less and less treatments that are an effective cure. 

According to the CDC, the simple use of antibiotics is enough to generate a drug-resistant bacterial strain. Over prescription of antibiotics is a major factor in the increase of hardier bacteria, which is why it's important to only use them when a doctor thinks it is appropriate. Diseases that don't respond to drugs can often be treated by other means, but some require antibiotics and can cause death or serious medical complications. It's important to know the facts about these diseases to assess your risk and prevent infection. This list goes over which diseases are drug resistant, and the best new ways to respond to these powerful bacteria. 

  • Clostridium Difficile
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    Symptoms: Diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain/tenderness

    Fatal: No

    Treatment Options: Antibiotics like metronidazole, vancomycin, or fidaxomicin

    CDC Hazard Level: Urgent

    C. difficile is a bacterial disease that can cause colitis, a condition in which the colon is inflamed and irritated. This bacteria is generally found in fecal matter and passes through contact, like touching a contaminated object and then touching your mouth or eyes. Elderly people and those who are already sick are more susceptible to contracting this disease, and people taking antibiotics are also at a higher risk. Studies have shown that some antibiotics used to treat some strains of C. difficile are becoming less effective, and the CDC has warned that these drug-resistant strains constitute an urgent hazard level

  • Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae

    Symptoms: Fever, generally feeling unwell, rapid pulse, pain in heart 

    Fatal: Yes

    Treatment Options: Draining, certain antibiotics

    CDC Hazard Level: Urgent

    Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) is the name given to a family of different germs that have proven difficult to treat with antibiotics, including diseases like E. coli. According the CDC, CRE bacteria have become nearly impossible to treat with most existing drugs. This is a major problem, as reports state that up to 50% of infections result in death. CRE can also exist inside a host body with no signs of infection, making it easier for the bacteria to spread. Generally, CRE is spread via person to person contact and most people become infected in hospital settings and generally overseas. 

    Some clinicians have reported the existence of strains that are resistant to all antibiotics, a chilling fact that has driven the CDC to label CRE as an urgent threat

  • Neisseria Gonorrhoeae
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    Symptoms: Usually no symptoms, but can cause painful urination, vaginal bleeding, discharge from penis/vagina, swollen testicles, itching, soreness

    Fatal: No

    Treatment Options: Antibiotics

    CDC Hazard Level: Urgent

    Gonorrhea is an infamous STD that can be passed by vaginal, oral, and anal sex. It's an extremely common disease, the second most reported STD with 350,062 infections in 2014 alone. The disease can be extremely painful, although some people may get it and never show any outward symptoms. Women are especially unlikely to show symptoms. While it is traditionally treated with antibiotics, studies have shown that gonorrhea has become more resistant to these drugs over the years. Over 15% of tested bacterium showed a resistance to penicillin, once one of the most common and effective antibiotics. The resistance rate for other, less common antibiotics was even higher.

    Long term infection can do serious damage, including making women infertile. Certain antibiotics can still be used to cure many strains, but more research is required to make sure this once curable disease remains that way. 

  • Multidrug-Resistant Acinetobacter

    Symptoms: Pneumonia, bloodstream infections

    Fatal: Yes

    Treatment Options: Colistin or tigecycline

    CDC Hazard Level: Serious

    Roughly 500 have died as a result of multidrug-resistant acinetobacter, a form of gram-negative bacteria that can have serious impacts on your health. These bacteria can cause serious cases of pneumonia and bloodstream infections, and they can survive in hospital environments and be transmitted by medical staff. At the moment, colistin and tigecycline are the only antibiotics that are still able to fight off this disease. However, a colistin-resistant strain of acinetobacter has been identified in Europe. 

  • Drug-Resistant Campylobacter

    Symptoms: Diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, temporary paralysis, nausea, vomiting, bloodstream infection

    Fatal: Yes

    Treatment Options: Macrolides

    CDC Hazard Level: Serious

    Campylobacter infections can be severe and cause flu-like symptoms easily initially mistaken for a milder infection. Two of the most commonly prescribed treatments are proving ineffective against new, drug-resistant strains. The bacteria is passed through contact with animals, and most infections are the result of exposure to raw chicken meat. Macrolide drugs are still the preferred treatment method, but they are becoming less effective. Campylobacter is spread from animals to people, usually via contaminated food. People who travel are more likely to be infected with a drug-resistant strain, and over 300,000 cases are reported annually. 

  • Fluconazole-Resistant Candida Fungi

    Symptoms: Bloodstream infection, yeast infection

    Fatal: Yes

    Treatment Options: Limited

    CDC Hazard Level: Serious

    Bacteria are not the only disease-causing organisms that are developing increased resistance to treatments. Fungi are as well. Antifungal medications are extremely valuable and usually effective at fighting disease, but one species has adapted to work around our existing treatments. Candida albicans, an infectious yeast, is the most likely cause for a type of fungal infection that easily causes complications. The infection can spread to many different parts of the body, including the bloodstream, where it can turn fatal. There are currently very few treatment options to deal with an antifungal-resistant infection of C. albicans, and many of them are toxic to patients who are already sick. More research is needed if we are to combat this issue. Luckily, however, antifungal resistance is still relatively uncommon.