Rise of the Palestinian Superbug: The Guardian Strikes Again!

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The Guardian has a report on “an epidemic of antibiotic-resistant superbugs,” and all that’s missing are the words EVERYBODY PANIC!!

Well, that and any semblance of good journalism or objectivity (hat tip: Tommy).

Doctors in Gaza and the West Bank have said they are battling an epidemic of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, a growing problem in the world’s conflict zones, which could also spill over the Palestinian borders.

The rise and spread of such virulent infections adds to the devastation of war, increasing medical costs, blocking hospital beds because patients need care for longer, and often leaving people whose injuries might once have been healed with life-changing disabilities.

Gaza is a particularly fertile breeding ground for superbugs because its health system has been worn down by years of blockade, and antibiotics are in short supply, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found.

“This is a global health security issue because multi-drug-resistant organisms don’t know any boundaries,” said Dina Nasser, lead infection control nurse at Augusta Victoria hospital in East Jerusalem, who has also worked in Gaza. “That’s why the global community, even if it’s not interested in the politics of Gaza, should be interested in this.”

Even though doctors in Gaza knew protocols to prevent the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, persistent shortages of antibiotics meant they could not always follow them, they told reporters. Patients take incomplete courses of antibiotics or are prescribed a mix because the right medicine is not available.

Shortages of water, power and fuel for generators mean doctors cannot always meet even basic hygiene standards, making it easier for any drug-resistant infection to spread. At times doctors are not even able to wash their hands and there are shortages of gloves, gowns and chlorine tablets for disinfecting.

A decade-long Israeli blockade on travel and trade means Gaza is relatively isolated compared with other conflict areas that have proved fertile ground for superbugs.

The US military noted the spread of drug-resistant bacteria from Iraq more than a decade ago; it logged such a huge rise in injured personnel returning with resistant Acinetobacter that the bacteria were eventually nicknamed “Iraqibacter”.

But Gaza is not totally cut off. Small numbers of patients do transfer to other hospitals in Palestine, Israel and nearby countries such as Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.

Healthy people can carry the bacteria without showing any symptoms, so doctors and aid workers travelling in and out of Gaza could transport superbugs to other countries. The bacteria can also travel without human hosts.

“It will always get out,” said Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah, who studies conflict medicine at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC). “The untreated sewage from Gaza containing multi-drug-resistant bacteria goes into the aquifer and that is a shared aquifer [with Egypt and Israel].

The scale of the problem was thrown into relief by an increase in violence in Gaza this year, when more than 200 people were killed and thousands injured, mostly shot in the legs, during protests along the border that culminated in a “Great March of Return” rally in May.

Dr Mahmoud Mattar, an orthopaedic surgeon, said around 2,000 Gazans were currently dealing with serious gunshot injuries to the legs that would typically require multiple reconstruction operations and two years of rehabilitation.

Nearly all of these patients have also contracted superbug infections, meaning surgeons have to delay closing their wounds. That reduces the chances of successful reconstruction, extends hospital stays and increases the risk of amputation.

The first antibiotic, penicillin, was brought into mass production towards the end of the second world war. Since then, antibiotics have saved millions of lives and prevented countless disabilities, particularly among those injured in war, by allowing doctors to avoid amputations.

But no new class of antibiotic has been developed since the 1980s, and as the world’s superbug crisis grows ever more severe, some modern conflict zones are starting to resemble those in pre-penicillin days.

“We are expecting an absolute catastrophe in terms of residual disability in the wounded [in Gaza],” said Abu Sittah, who is head of plastic surgery at AUBMC and travelled to Gaza in May to treat patients at al-Awda hospital.

All the superbugs on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of priority bacteria – those which pose the greatest threat to human health – have been reported in Palestine.

But Gaza’s hospitals, like many others in conflict zones, are already in crisis, with a dire lack of equipment and medicine and severe overcrowding. Most also lack the ability to detect superbugs, making things worse.

Note how this entire report is based on one by some obscure website called the Bureau of Investigative Journalism; the medical professionals cited are palestinian with one from Lebanon – hardly objective in any sense of the word; and no hard data (like number of “superbug” cases) is even presented.



Of course, all the blame for this supposed crisis is placed on Israel, even though Israel does not restrict medications into Gaza. It is the PA, responsible for the purchase of medicines for Gaza, that has done this to punish Hamas. And let’s not forget that Hamas has refused needed medications from Israel, something else the Guardian sees fit to omit. As is the palestinians’ culpability for the situation in Gaza – their terrorism that necessitated the so-called “blockade”, their diversion of funds earmarked for improving Gaza’s infrastructure to things like rocket production and terror tunnels, as well as the PA’s role in the Gaza electricity crisis. 

In other words, the only verifiable illness here is the Guardian’s hatred of Israel. And for that, there seems to be no available treatment.

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An Aussie immigrant to Israel, David Lange is founder and managing editor of Israellycool. He is a happy family man, and a lover of steak, Australian sports and single malt whisky.