05 September 2014

DoD Fighting Superbugs


Pentagon Funding R&D to Treat Superbugs

Over time, all living organisms evolve. To be more specific, their genetic make-up changes to adapt to changes in their environment. As a result, different traits are introduced in a species to help them survive. Only those species with the most desirable traits continue to exist, while others simply die out.

This evolution process occurs in all living organisms, including bacteria. The current medications available to fight bacteria have been in use for so many years that some bacteria have developed resistance against them. These bacteria can no longer be fought with the medicines available today and are therefore known as “Superbugs.”

The Pentagon has begun a research program to counter this rapidly growing threat, as superbugs survive and divide. The disease experts at the DoD claim that this threat of superbugs is present on a global level and must not be ignored.

About one-third of the service members fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq contracted superbug diseases that were fatal. Almost 10% of the new recruits now suffer from a skin condition that is caused by superbugs. Such infection delays training. The DoD is spending over $40 million per year on the R&D program of medications for these superbugs.

No Medicine is Available to Treat Superbugs

Emil Lesho, an Army Colonel, says no such antibiotics are currently available that can treat superbugs. He believes big pharmaceutical companies may not even follow a research program to develop these new vaccines because such a program will result in lower profits.

Norovirus is a medicine-resistant germ that often attacks people on cruise ships. Once the Pentagon started a research program to develop a vaccine for this germ, LygoCyte of Bozemon successfully developed one with support from the DoD as well as the National Institutes of Health. Later, a pharmaceutical giant, based in Japan, bought the company and is now planning to manufacture the vaccine.

Military Infectious Diseases Program Director Michael Kozar claims they are trying to reduce the risk factors of the research program by looking into the latest technologies that can be availed by the researchers. The investigators are also provided with funds so they can analyze the potential success or failure of the new vaccine.

The White House is also becoming serious about the superbug threat. It is possible the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology will soon publish a report. They will also start a task force for antibiotic resistance and offer incentives to drug companies in order to encourage them to begin research on superbugs. The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research has been funded to carry out research on experimental therapeutics.

Since the superbugs can cause fatal diseases and spread globally, potentially surviving in different weather and atmospheric conditions, it is extremely important to stop this threat. Once spread, the diseases will be difficult to combat and many casualties can occur.

The Pentagon has taken a positive initiative by starting research programs to treat superbugs. Finding such a vaccine at this stage can definitely prevent potential crises in the future.

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