By Sarah-Jane O'Connor 21/04/2017

A new book summarising the risks of antibiotic resistance by prominent Kiwi scientist Dr Siouxsie Wiles is an excellent overview of the issue, and what you should be aware of. 

Antibiotic Resistance: The End of Modern Medicine?, published by Bridget Williams Books, draws on Siouxsie’s expertise as a microbiologist to discuss the threat facing modern medicine if we lose access to some of our most important drugs: antibiotics.

We have copies of Antibiotic Resistance to give away to Sciblogs readers – find details on how to enter at the bottom of this post.

You’d only have to pay a tiny bit of attention to the news to have an inkling of why we need to focus antibiotics and their responsible use. A campylobacter outbreak in Havelock North last year, caused by a contamination in the town’s water supply; a typhoid outbreak among a church community in Auckland; KFC pledging to stop using chickens raised on antibiotics.

Earlier this year, a woman in the US was infected with a strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae resistant to 26 different antibiotics. After a month in hospital – isolated to stop her infection spreading to others – she died without any treatment fit to address her illness.

Antibiotic gold rush finished

The golden age of antibiotics heralded a resulting golden age in modern medicine. We rely on antibiotics for people having surgeries like knee and hip replacements or caesarean sections, for people undergoing chemotherapy, for dealing with infections in catheters and stomach lines in patients reliant on these tools.

But the age of finding new antibiotics like a gold rush has passed. Almost all the antibiotics we use today were discovered in the 1940s and 50s. Between the 1960s and 80s, just three new classes of antibiotics were found. More often than not, antibiotic research simply rediscovers the drugs already in use; antibiotics for which strains bacteria have already developed resistance.

The conversation around antibiotic resistance can sound like doomsday prophesying, but for good reason. So many of the things that we rely on for modern medicine are tied to being able to treat infections. It’s one thing to try to imagine returning to a time where diseases like typhoid or tuberculosis run rampant in our communities. That the diseases we wrangled into control could return to infect us once again. But on top of that to lose some of the most crucial protections for our most vulnerable – it’s difficult to imagine.

At about 100 pages, the BWB Texts serve as a primer for interested but not specialist audiences. In this case, Antibiotic Resistance will provide an excellent tutorial for those who know there’s cause for concern but need some extra background to understand why.

I thought I knew about antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance, but I still learned plenty reading Siouxsie’s book. For instance, that when kiwifruit vines were struck by a Psa (Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae) outbreak, antibiotics were used on vines. A real concern when Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a related bacteria, can cause serious infections in humans and bacteria can pass antibiotic-resistant genes to other strains.

One of Siouxsie’s particular skills as a science communicator is not leaving the interesting bits out. She gets it that we want to hear about flesh-eating bacteria, so uses them as a vehicle to inform us about crucial issues. Her fabulous story-telling made the pages fly by.

Antibiotic resistance isn’t something that might happen to us in the future. It’s happening now, as the emergence of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) shows. Your behaviour can have an impact, through good hygiene (wash your hands!) and responsible use of antibiotics. Reading Siouxsie’s book would also be a good start.

Book giveaway

We have copies of Siouxsie’s book to give away to Sciblogs readers. As Siouxsie points out, a key step to the respectful use of antibiotics is understanding which illnesses are caused by bacteria and which are caused by other nasties. Don’t take antibiotics for a cold!

Below are four infectious diseases, each caused by either a bacteria, fungi, virus or parasite. Tell us in the comments which is which to be in to win a copy of Antibiotic Resistance

  • Malaria
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Chickenpox
  • Ringworm

Antibiotic Resistance – the end of modern medicine? Siouxsie Wiles
BWB Texts, April 2017. RRP$14.99.

Featured image: Petri dish culture plate demonstrating the growth of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria, Public domain, CDC/ Melissa Dankel.

0 Responses to “Book review: Antibiotic Resistance – the end of modern medicine?”

  • Answers to question: Malaria-parasite, Rheumatic fever-bacteria, Chickenpox-virus, Ringworm-fungal

  • Answers are
    -Malaria – parasite
    Rheumatic fever – bacteria
    Chickenpox – virus
    Ringworm – fungi

  • Answers to win a copy of this important book: Malaria (Plasmodium parasite) is a parasite, Rheumatic fever (streptococcus A) is a bacteria, Chickenpox(varicella zoster virus) is a virus, and ringworm (tinea corporis) is a fungus. Thank you so much for this extremely important work!

  • would love a copy…so answers are…
    Malaria : parasite
    Rheumatic Fever : bacteria
    Chickenpox : virus
    Ringworm : fungi

  • Answers:

    Malaria: parasite
    Rheumatic fever: bacteria
    Chickenpox: virus
    Ringworm: fungi

  • Interesting.
    Malaria : Parasite
    Rheumatic Fever : Bacteria
    Chickenpox : Virus
    Ringworm : fungi had to google this as I thought it was a Parasite!

  • Wow. Would love a copy of this book.
    Malaria = parasite
    ARF = bacteria
    Chickenpox = virus
    Ringworm = fungus.

  • Thanks! I’d love to read this book.

    Malaria: parasite
    Rheumatic fever: bacteria
    Chickenpox: virus
    Ringworm: fungi

  • Malaria-parasite
    Rheumatic fever-bacteria
    Would use the book for teaching 🙂

  • Would be great to read the book and pass it on! Malaria from a parasite, ring worm is a fungus, chickenpox is a virus, rheumatic fever is from a bacteria.

  • Thanks, it’s always interesting to hear what Siouxsie has to say! Answers: Malaria – parasite. Rheumatic fever – bacteria. Chickenpox – virus. Ringworm – fungus. Cheers.

  • I would love this!
    Malaria : parasite
    Rheumatic Fever : bacteria
    Chickenpox : virus
    Ringworm : fungi

  • Malaria is caused by a parasite.
    Ring worm is caused by a fungus.
    Chickenpox is a virus.
    Rheumatic fever is caused by a bacteria.
    So only rheumatic fever can be treated with antibiotics.
    Would love to receive a copy of Dr Siouxsie’s book!

  • Would love to get a copy of Antibiotic Resistance:

    Malaria – parasite
    Rheumatic fever – bacteria
    Chickenpox – virus
    Ringworm – fungi

  • Malaria is due to parasite
    Rheumatic fever due to bacteria
    Chickenpox due to virus
    Ringworm due to fungi

  • Sounds like a really interesting book.
    Malaria- parasite, rheumatic fever- bacteria, chickenpox- virus, ringworm- fungi.

  • malaria – parasite
    rheumatic fever – bacterium (PLEASE stop referring to “a ‘bacteria” – that is the plural of bacterium)
    chickenpox – virus
    ringworm – fungi (about 40 different varieties, so here the plural is appropriate)

  • Malaria – parasite
    Rheumatic fever- bacteria
    Chickenpox – virus
    Ringworm – fungi

    And no worries, I would be happy to pay for the book to read it.

  • Malaria = parasite, Rheumatic fever = bacteria, Chicken pox = virus, Ringworm = fungi.

  • Malaria-parasite,
    Rheumatic fever-bacteria,

  • Malaria is caused by a parasite, rheumatic fever by a bacteria, chickenpox is vital (just ask my little niece, and her poor mum) and ringworm is due to fungi

  • Malaria : parasite
    Rheumatic fever: bacterium
    Chicken pox: virus
    Ringworm : fungus

  • Malaria – parasite, rheumatic fever – bacteria, chickenpox – virus, ringworm – fungi

  • Hi Sciblog,
    Malaria – Parasite
    Rumatic fever – Bacteria
    Chicken pox – Virus
    Ring worm – Fungus

  • Malaria – parasite in the blood, Rheumatic fever – bacteria, chicken pox – pox virus & ring worm – fungi. The only one I didn’t know for sure was Rheumatic fever. I’ve used a live virus to innoculate sheep against scabby mouth which is also a poxvirus.

  • This looks brilliant.
    Malaria – parasite
    Rheumatic fever – bacteria
    Chicken pox – virus
    Ringworm – fungi

  • Malaria-parasite, Rheumatic fever-bacteria, Chickenpox-virus, Ringworm-fungal

  • Would love this 🙂
    Malaria – is a parasite
    Rheumatic fever – is bacteria
    Chicken pox – is a virus
    Ringworm – is a fungi

  • Hey thanks. I love hearing Siouxsie on the radio. Just her name evokes a sense of mystery, excitement and of course a learning opportunity. Clearly a must-read book. Unfortunately the people who contribute most to the issue she writes about are unlikely to read her book. I guess that’s life. I wonder what President trump thinks about it!? I shudder to think. Answers to the questions: Malaria, parasite. Rheumatic fever, bacteria, Chicken-pox, virus. Ringworm, fungus. Many thanks. Keep up the good work, S.

  • Would be great to learn more.
    Malaria – parasite
    Rheumatic fever -bacteria
    CHicken pox – virus
    ringworm – fungi

  • Ha – you are all so wrong!

    Malaria is a result of GMO-fed animal diet and can be cured by regular coffee enimas
    Rheumatic fever, as most right thinking parents know, is an illness that all children should just be allowed to get and build a good natural immunity to. Rheumatic fever parties are the greatest thing!
    Chicken pox is caused by fluoride. And microwave ovens
    ringworm is what you get if your chakra is misaligned. It is often made worse by the pure aluminium and mercury injections the alopathic medical industry force on children to make millions and help hide the cure to cancer.

    Send me my book!!!!

  • Rheumatic fever is caused by BACTERIAL infection; Ringworm by a fungal infection; Chickenpox by a virus and Malaria (which my grandfather got in Burma, survived and then gave blood for medical use throughout his life) is caused by a pesky little parasite.

  • Ha! Just like a game of Plague Inc – I love it.

    So following from this the easy answer is… none of the above. It all goes back to best out-reach to the general public – an area which Siouxsie excels. Infectious diseases can be controlled only by education, informed by science-based decisions, and translated into a narrative the general public will accept. Science shoved, like the proverbial antibiotic pill, down someones throat wont help one bit. The answer isn’t a new drug, but the public, GP’s (yes), policy makers and so on, understanding the role of immunization, antibiotics, animal-targeted biotics and hormones, and all the rest in a holistic manner. I dont see an end for antibiotics, but a new beginning based on best-management practices.

  • Answer:
    1.Malaria – Parasite
    2.Rheumatic fever -Bacteria
    3. Chickenpox – Virus
    4. Ringworm – Fungi

    bacteria, fungi, virus or parasite

  • Answer:
    1.Malaria – Parasite
    2.Rheumatic fever -Bacteria
    3. Chickenpox – Virus
    4. Ringworm – Fungi