|The nefarious action of a Beta-lactamase upon penicillin.|
Evolution is a bitch. Seriously. We humans think we really are evolved, what with our opposable thumbs, large skulls, and I-Pod inventing brains. But in truth, we are losing the race to lowly single-celled organisms that are rapidly developing ways to circumvent our best attempts at eradication. Bacteria - yes, bacteria - that ubiquitous life form that is scattered all over our planet - and within ourselves - are continuing to prove that our best efforts at controlling our environment always come to naught. For every "wonder" antibiotic we invent, the bacteria quickly figures a way around it, actually changing its own DNA in order to produce certain enzymes, the most basic of which are termed Beta-lactamases, to virtually cleave Beta-lactam rings (the working part of many antibiotics), thereby rendering them completely ineffective. Make no mistake about it. This is not adaptation. THIS is evolution.
In this article, one may witness one small skirmish humans have won over KPC, a particularly nasty feature in certain bacteria that is gaining traction in organisms' battle to stay alive. Be assured that, impressive as these scientific sleuths and their methods may be, skirmishes do little to win wars. This article gives excellent background information on Beta-lactamases, KPC, Amp-C, MDM-1, and other methods of antibiotic resistance developed by bacteria. Throw in viruses that are, by definition, no more than packages of genetic material (one cannot even truly say they are "alive", as we understand the meaning of the word) which are notorious for mutations, and multi-drug resistant and extremely drug-resistant strains of that age-old scourge, Tuberculosis (MDR-TB and XDR-TB), and we have in our midst bugs that now have the upper hand. Perhaps they always did. It is our folly to think that we could actually eradicate these life forms from our planet. They have been here much longer and have billions of years more experience at evolution than we. I personally see increasing resistance in the form of KPC, ESBL, Amp-C, MRSA, etc. each and every day in our humble lab. Smallpox? Yes, we have virtually wiped that virus off the face of the Earth, except for two small stockpiles reserved for research. Or so we are told. Polio? Yes, we are gaining ground, but it still ravages underdeveloped areas of the world. Even if we do completely kill these misery-causing organisms off, what will take their place? What are we creating with our chemicals, our genetic tinkering, our own yearning for a brave new world?
KPC is just the beginning, folks. We may win skirmishes. We may even emerge victorious from a few battles here and there. But we will not win the war. We are outnumbered and outsmarted. Make no mistake. This is not our world to rule. It never has been.