• Question: What is the most deadly microbe you know.

    Asked by peter296 to Tiffany, Sonia, Simon, Rosemary, Roisin, Min, Jun, Jean, Aimee on 28 Apr 2020.
    • Photo: Jean O'Dwyer

      Jean O'Dwyer answered on 28 Apr 2020:

      Oooo what an excellent question, Peter! The answer is- it depends.

      Aside from scary infections like Ebola and meningitis, I think the most deadly microbes are those which are resistant to antibiotics- this is when infections can’t be cured by the medicines which once cured them. The World Health Organisation estimates that by 2050, there will be 10 million deaths because of antibiotic resistant infections.

      For example, there was a woman in the states who broke her femur (thigh bone) and got infected with was is called CRE —carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae-in her case a bacteria called Klebsiella pneumonia. Testing at the hospital showed resistance to 14 drugs —all the drug options the hospital had!! A sample was sent to the centre for disease control in Atlanta for further testing, which revealed that nothing available to US doctors (26 antibiotics) would have cured this infection. Unfortunately she died a short time later.

      So, to stop this, we have to be very careful with how we use antibiotics- for example, they should only be used to treat bacterial infections (so not the flu!) and we need to ensure we complete the course the doctor prescribed.

    • Photo: Min Yap

      Min Yap answered on 30 Apr 2020:

      It would probably be the microbes that cause necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh eating disease, where the body’s soft tissue dies because of infection of these microbes. It can be caused by many microbes, but fortunately, it’s rare and thankfully there’s various treatment to prevent spread and allow recovery.

    • Photo: Roisin Jones

      Roisin Jones answered on 6 May 2020:

      Hey Peter, very interesting question! Microbes aren’t my area of expertise, but I’d say that the deadliest microbe I know of is clostridium botulinum: it’s a bacteria that produces botulinum toxin, which is the most poisonous substance that we know of!