In spite of our best efforts, many microorganisms are defying treatment.
In early 2016, the Zika virus quickly spread by mosquitoes to more than 45 countries, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. While showing few symptoms, Zika infection can cause severe brain damage in unborn infants. With no clear pattern of transmission (it can pass through an infected father’s sperm), no treatment regimen, and slow progress on a vaccine, health officials in many countries have warned women to delay pregnancy until the epidemic fades. “Short Answers to Hard Questions About Zika,” New York Times, July 29, 2016.
On another front, the overuse of antimicrobial drugs has lead to an alarming global growth in “superbugs”. Microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites) mutate when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, and antimalarials). Medications then become ineffective and infections persist, increasing the risk of spread to others. “Globally, 480,000 people develop multi-drug resistant TB each year, and drug resistance is starting to complicate the fight against HIV and malaria, as well. “Antimicrobial Resistance: Fact Sheet,” WHO, September 2016.