The Most Dangerous Drug-Resistant Diseases  

Eric Vega
15 items

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 is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Most Dangerous Drug-Resistant Diseases
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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

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Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobac... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Most Dangerous Drug-Resistant Diseases
Photo: USDA/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
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

Gonorrhea is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Most Dangerous Drug-Resistant Diseases
Photo: NIAID/Foter/CC BY 2.0

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. 

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Multidrug-Resistant Acinetobac... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Most Dangerous Drug-Resistant Diseases
Photo: CDC/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
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.