Menu

Immigrants could cause a superbug apocalypse, scientists warn

  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis.jpg

    Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria seen under a high-powered microscope.Bioquell

  • Bioquell-Q-10 robots.jpg

    Two Bioquell Q-10 robots, recently tested at Johns Hopkins Hospital as superbug killing machines.Bioquell

Immigrants may import dangerous and potentially lethal superbug strains, a medical journal recently warned -- and robots may hold the answer.

Earlier this month, G8 countries and the World Health Organization were called upon to face the threat of a catastrophic superbug apocalypse. The prestigious medical journal Lancet warned that a rise in extensively drug resistant cases could produce an outbreak of an untreatable superstrain, in particular of tuberculosis (TB).

While TB can be cured with antibiotics, if untreated it can be fatal in half of cases. Stronger, drug-resistant strains can then develop from the bacteria in patients who fail to complete their six-month treatment cycle.

The report notes that Eastern European immigrants in particular pose a credible threat of importing these drug-resistant TB.

Just last week in Australia, a superbug known to have killed humans abroad breached an intensive care unit in Melbourne infecting ten patients – and this particularly nasty superbug spread is ability to resist drugs to entirely different bacteria.

Key Lines of Defense: Robots and Drugs
Both healthcare and the pharmaceutical industries must robustly act to preserve existing drugs, experts warn. They must also be encouraged to develop new antibiotics to make up for the gap created by the failure to do so for twenty years.

Europe’s Innovative Medicines Initiative, a new public private partnership, looks like it has potential to be replicated elsewhere to improve international defenses.

Better hygiene is another key measure -- and a recent report suggests deploying robot dynamic duos may be the answer.

Johns Hopkins Hospital infection control experts tested using robots as superbug killing machines.

Weighing in at about 60 pounds apiece, the two washing machine-sized robots worked together dispersing a bleaching agent into the air and then detoxifying the disinfecting chemical.

In the first head to head study of traditional hospital counter-superbug cleaning tactics versus next generation robots, the robots killed it – literally. The Bioquell made robots were extremely effective at preventing the spread of multiple-drug-resistant bacteria, the scientists said.

In fact, the robots reduced the patient’s chances of becoming colonized by the especially aggressive and difficult to treat bacterium, vancomycin-resistant enterococci by a whopping 80 percent.

Robots: What can’t they do?

Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at wargames@foxnews.com or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.