Antibiotic Resistance in Bacteria
A few of the major issues in attempting to combat bacteria is how quickly they adapt, evolve relative to large organisms, and develop antibiotic resistance.

Bacteria are able to replicate on a much greater magnitude than macro-organisms — E. Coli only takes 23 minutes to replicate — and they can adapt functional changes in a very short period of time.

For example, scientists at Harvard Medical School conducted an experiment where they grew E. Coli bacteria in a petri dish that consisted of increasingly strong concentrations of antibiotics. After eleven days, E. Coli strains emerged that could resist antibiotic concentrations that were a thousand times greater than the amount necessary to initially kill them.

As antibiotics have become more prevalent over the past century, bacteria have been evolving at a rate faster than we can keep up with. About 700,000 people are estimated to have died of infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria last year.

If people do not take action against this problem, by the year 2050 we could have 10 million deaths a year due to resistant strains, meaning that resistant bacteria would be taking more lives than cancer.

A U.N. meeting was called on September 14 to discuss this issue. One factor contributing to the rise of resistant strains is the overuse of antibiotics in humans. Antibiotics tend to be overprescribed or simply used when they are not needed.

It is estimated that less than half the antibiotics people take are actually necessary. Unnecessarily using antibiotics contributes to the rise of resistant bacteria without achieving anything beneficial.

The overuse of antibiotics is seen even more often in the treatment of animals. According to the Huffington Post, over two-thirds of antibiotics used in the U.S. is used to treat livestock. Unnecessary antibiotic use in agriculture leads to resistant bacteria strains in humans as well.

Fortunately, action has been and will continue to be taken to reduce the rise of strains of bacteria that show antibiotic resistance. For example, the development of fish vaccines meant that antibiotics no longer had to be used in Norwegian salmon farming. Over the past six years, the Netherlands has reduced their animal antibiotic use by 56 percent.

Additionally, avoiding infection initially will reduce the need for antibiotics. Hospitals could make it a policy to discharge babies sooner before they have time to be exposed to potentially infectious diseases.

Educating mothers on the important role of breastfeeding in building up babies’ immune systems could also contribute to preventing the onset of infection.

According to the World Health Organization, even those of us living among the general populace can take action on this issue. We can practice better hygiene to prevent infections.

We should also be careful not to use antibiotics unless specifically prescribed by health professionals and make sure that we take the full course of antibiotics once they are prescribed to us.

Edmond Kim

Photo: Flickr

Foreign Assistance
There are several governments that give a significant portion of their gross national income (GNI) to foreign assistance. It is important to recognize, commend and encourage these countries to keep doing this. Below is a list of five governments that are committed to foreign assistance.

1) Norway
Norway gives 1.07 percent of its GNI to foreign assistance annually. Norway surpasses the UN target of developed countries giving 0.7 percent of its GNI to foreign aid. The Norwegian government promotes private donations by giving tax deductions to its citizens who donate. Norway gives most of its aid to Afghanistan, Tanzania and Palestinian Territories, which are some of the poorest countries in the world. Norway provides free university education to any student irrespective of nationality or permanent residence, including citizens of developing countries.

2) Sweden
Sweden gives 1.02 percent of its GNI to foreign assistance annually. Sweden also gives more than the UN development goals. The Swedish government gives tax deductions to citizens who donate. Similar to Norway, Sweden gives the most assistance to Tanzania, Afghanistan and Mozambique. Sweden also supports democratization processes in Eastern Europe and the Baltic Area.

3) Luxembourg
Luxembourg gives 1.0 percent of its GNI to foreign assistance annually. This is more than the UN development goals as well. Luxembourg gives most of its foreign aid to Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal, which are some of the poorest countries in the world. Luxembourg gives large sums of money to humanitarian assistance, specifically.

4) Denmark
Denmark gives 0.85 percent of its GNI to foreign assistance annually. Denmark has also surpassed the UN development goals. Denmark gives most of its assistance to Sudan, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Afghanistan. Denmark was the seventh largest donor to Syria in 2013.

5) Netherlands
The Netherlands gives 0.67 percent of its GNI to foreign assistance annually. This has decreased more recently. The Netherlands used to give more than 0.7 percent of its GNI to foreign aid. Even so, the Netherlands gives most of its foreign assistance to Sudan, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. About 81 percent of the Netherlands’ foreign aid goes to countries classified as fragile. This is significantly more than most countries.

In comparison, the United States gives 0.2 percent of its GNI to foreign aid. Perhaps the United States could take more steps to meet the UN development goal of giving 0.7 percent to foreign aid. The United States could look to these European countries as models for foreign assistance.

Ella Cady

Sources: Global Humanitarian Assistance 1, Global Humanitarian Assistance 2, The Guardian, LOC 1, LOC 2, OECD
Photo: Paradise on Earth