September 21, 2017

Possible Solution for Antibiotics and Virus Resistance

I have been thinking a lot about various diseases and illnesses, particularly cancer after the death of Nabeel Qureshi, which I will write about in the near future, but today I just want to discuss viruses.

I came across this article that mentions a woman who died from a virus that was resistant to 26 different antibiotics. This happens because when you misuse antibiotics, you get a phenomenon called antimicrobial resistance, which basically means that because you didn’t use your antibiotics properly the first time, you essentially created a new virus that will be immune to that antibiotic that you initially tried to treat it with. In english, you didn’t kill it properly and now it’s stronger than before – kind of like a human that has faced hardship and is more determined and better off for it.

Experts investigating antimicrobial resistance say that “preventing resistance to existing antibiotics should take priority over developing new drugs, since they will also fail if the causes of resistance are not tackled.” I agree – you need to get to the cause and solve it there, because eventually we’ll run out of options, or the rate at which resistance develops will be exponentially faster than the rate at which we can develop new drugs to fight those newly resistant viruses.

I feel that there’s a simple solution that could be applied to everyone being treated for a virus, and it would basically be a two step process.

The first step would be to test and identify what kind of virus is currently infecting the patient.

The second step, which I will explain below, is to insert the correct treatment (identified in the test) into the patient via a device that will deliver the correct dose at the correct intervals.

This would allow the patient to receive their treatment passively, without having to stay at the hospital (which frees up beds too). It will also allow the doctors to program the doses to suit the diagnosis.

The technology for something like this would be incredibly easy to develop, especially considering we already implant devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators into patients. This also means that the general public would be open to have a piece of electronic technology inserted into their bodies temporarily if they reference the fact that people do it permanently.

“But where would we put it?”

There is ample space in the human body for a device of this nature, for example, there is a lot of breathing room between intestines or below the lungs.

“Will a whole course of antibiotics fit in a small device?”

The reality is that not all of your antibiotic tablet or injection is actually useful. In chatting to some people in pharmaceuticals, the guestimation is that only about 2% of the pill is actually value-adding. The other stuff is to help with digestion and also to make the pill big enough so that it doesn’t get lost or that you don’t take two at once. This means that you can actually fit a whole lot of antibiotic in one small space.

“What if it breaks inside the human and they get the whole dose at once?”

Well, it would just need to be made of something incredibly durable and flexible (so that it can resist impact if the person fell or got hit).

Another exciting prospect for something like this is to have passive blood testing, which could then be reported back to the doctor at the end of each day (as an example). Even better, the device could just be programmed to alert the doctor if the blood shows certain properties that it shouldn’t. I think this part of the device may be a bit far-off, especially considering the issues that Theranos had, but possibly something to add in the future once we have some data on the feasibility of the device.

I am aware that there are probably some medical inaccuracies mentioned above, and that it’s not as simple as I’m making it out to be – but I do think it’s a project worth pursuing and testing quite urgently.

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