Sadly, my time in Cape Town has come to an end. Though, I can’t complain too much because I arrived on Tuesday to beautiful Auckland, New Zealand. I apologize for the lack of a more timely update on my remaining days in South Africa but I was so busy having fun, I had to scramble a bit to finish up my surveys there. Aside from my 40 surveys in South Africa, I spent my last couple of days shadowing infectious disease physicians in the hospital, going to a Saturday market and the Super Rugby quarter finals!
I’ve been going on in this blog about how large of an issue antibiotic resistance is. My entire summer has been dedicated to understanding people’s perceptions/ideas/beliefs about antibiotics and then hopefully being able to give some insight as to what educational interventions need to be made to fix it. But I won’t lie, this summer has been anything but easy. Every day, I go to a park/market/mall/other public place and approach person after person in the least awkward way I possibly can, hoping they can spare a bit of their day. Conducting the same survey with over 200 people can get overwhelming and repetitive, especially when people show no interest.
But shadowing the infectious disease physicians and residents on their clinical rounds and sitting in on their meetings re-energized me and reminded me why I care so much about this topic in the first place. I heard the stories of patients whose lives were affected by antibiotic resistant infections. One, in particular, a young male who faced possible amputation of his leg because there was only one more antibiotic left that could treat his infection. His body had been bombarded with course after course of antibiotic and the bacteria evolved to survive–just like any other living organism does. However, bacteria do it fast. As soon as you administer an antibiotic, the process of selection begins. Yes, the process of antibiotic resistance happens at a molecular level. But to some extent, we as humans are causing it.
During the rounds, Dr. Mendelson reminded us of the story above. Before antibiotics, even a blade of grass could be a lethal weapon. Though it’s hard to imagine a time where this might again be the case, it’s not as absurd as it sounds.
The good news, though is that people are noticing. Recently, the US government’s Department of Health and Human Services, Wellcome Trust in London, AMR Centre in Alderley Park, Cheshire, and Boston University are parterning for an initiative called The Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X).
News release from the Financial Times: https://next.ft.com/content/8af200f0-54b4-11e6-9664-e0bdc13c3bef
This is an amazing collaboration between both US and UK institutions with aims to “bring new antibiotics, diagnostics and vaccines through early pre-clinical development to a stage where they can be taken forward by further private or public investment”. Unfortunately, there isn’t much mention of awareness campaigns or social interventions. And, even if we develop new antibiotics, eventually, bacteria will find a way to become resistant to those, too. It’s also important to recognize that antibiotic resistance is a problem all over the globe. When new technologies are discovered (especially diagnostics) they are usually expensive and require a lot of upkeep. It’s important to keep in mind how these technologies might one day be implemented in communities that aren’t prepared to sustain them. However, every piece of this puzzle is equally important and I’m glad to see funding go to it.
THIS STORY! This is so great and so interesting. These researchers are harnessing the power of our human microbiome and good bacteria to fight antibiotic resistant bugs like MRSA! It’s such an interesting read and if you would like to talk more about it, let me know!
Anyway, Cape Town was incredible. I don’t know when I’ll be back but I really hope it’s soon. I cannot thank Dr. Marc Mendelson enough for all of his insight and passion for this global issue. Field work may get tiring, but you reminded me why I’m doing it.
Auckland, New Zealand
Two words: jet lag. Auckland has a 10 hour time difference from Cape Town so I spent my first few days making sure my body didn’t hate me too much when it came time to start my surveys. However, I don’t have too much time because MY FAMILY IS COMING NEXT WEEK! I started my surveys here on the 28th and aside from the insane weather variations and random rain, all is well 🙂 I am saving all of my adventuring for when my mom and sister get here so all of the beautiful New Zealand landscape pictures will have to wait. I remember reading somewhere that New Zealand is the 2nd most friendly country in the world. So far, I can see how that’s true. Usually, when I approach someone to do a survey and they don’t have time, they just say “Sorry, I’m on my way” and I smile and thank them for their time anyway. On my first day of surveys, I approached a woman and gave my normal speech and asked if she had 15 minutes to spare. She was on her lunch break and did not have time but instead of the normal one sentence response, she offered me her phone number to meet up with her another time because she felt so bad she couldn’t participate at the moment. I thanked her profusely but told her it was okay, there were others I could ask. Then she offered me some of her chocolate. Why couldn’t I do all of my surveys here??
I’ll have more updates in a few days when my mom and sister get here on Friday 🙂 I can’t believe I will be home in two weeks. It will be weird sleeping in the same bed and using the same shower everyday.
All my love