The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis

The steady and alarming rise in antibiotic resistance poses one of the greatest challenges to public health and modern medicine. The U.S. CDC estimates that drug-resistant bacteria sicken more than 2 million people annually, causing 23,000 deaths and resulting in $20 billion in excess health-care costs and an additional $35 billion in lost productivity. The antibiotic resistance crisis is particularly devastating in hospitals and long-term care facilities, where such infections strike the most vulnerable patients with weak immune systems or chronic diseases.

Dr. Victor Nizet, a physician-scientist and member of the UC San Diego faculty for almost 20 years, explains that the roots of our current dilemma are multifactorial. Overzealous use of antibiotics in both clinical and agricultural settings, the departure of major pharmaceutical companies from antibiotic development (viewed as unprofitable), and simple Darwinian evolution of microbes exposed to life-or-death selective pressures each contribute profoundly. Can we, through public awareness, changes in medical practice, and scientific innovation, lift ourselves out of the hole that we have dug?

In the face of the exploding resistance crisis, Dr. Nizet and colleagues have turned their attention to discovering innovative future solutions that go “beyond antibiotics” to help patients with serious infections. These include strategies to strip the bacteria of their virulence factors and toxins to render them harmless, approaches to boost the natural antibacterial killing activity of our own white blood cells, and studies to understand how antibiotics and other existing drugs may work to cure infection in partnership with our immune system – not just how they work in a test tube. Dr. Nizet is spearheading a new initiative involving nearly 50 UCSD faculty named the “Collaborative to Halt Antibiotic-Resistant Microbes” or CHARM, which will make its debut later this year.

Watch The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis – Exploring Ethics .

Wildfires and Smoke

The 2020 California wildfires are among the worst in history and the wildfire season is just starting. Wildfires have been a feature of the mountain west for eons but the fires of the last few years have been catastrophic in loss of property, life and health. With increased fires at the wildfire urban interface the effects of the fires and the smoke they cause are impacting front-line firefighters and Californians all over the state, even when the fire activity is hundreds of miles away.

The duration of the wildfire season is longer, now stretching from summer into early winter, and catastrophic wildfires are increasing in size and frequency due to climate change. The fires are also having an impact on air quality with clear evidence of an association between wildfire smoke and respiratory health. Smoke also likely causes other negative health outcomes such as adverse birth outcomes.

Dr. John Balmes, UCSF Professor of Medicine, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, ZSFG/UCSF, explains the impacts of smoke on health and discusses studies underway to improve our knowledge as we continue to deal with devastating wildfires that are projected to get worse.

Watch Where There’s Wildfire, There’s Smoke.

E-Cigarettes: What We Know, What We Need to Learn

In 2014 with vaping newly on the rise, Dr. Laura Crotty Alexander joined us to talk about the potential health risks https://uctv.tv/shows/E-Cigarettes-Vaping-and-MRSA-Health-Matters-28132.

Five years later, we revisit the topic to see how the research is bearing out how e-cigarettes and their usage has evolved. Dr. Alexander shares a physician’s view of the specific dangers of vaping.

For more programs bringing the public and scientists together to explore how science can best serve society, watch Exploring Ethics https://uctv.tv/exploring-ethics/

Watch — How Bad Are E-cigarettes? – Exploring Ethics

What is in the Air We Breathe?

“What we do in my group is we zoom in on the aerosols.”

Vicki Grassian and her team look at aerosols at a microscopic level to determine their impact on our health and our climate. Aerosols can be mineral dust and sea spray from the ocean or created by human activity or stem from any number of sources. They can travel across the globe impacting people, animals, and the planet in their wake.

Grassian’s work seeks to understand how aerosols and other gases not only affect us but how we might harness them for solar geoengineering.

Watch — What is in the Air We Breathe? – Exploring Ethics

Climate Change

“When you talk about diversity of the soil, human beings we carry our soil with us. And we give that a very fancy term which is all the rage these days which is ‘microbiome.’ And as we see microbes diminishing in the soil, we are also seeing the same things happen in ourselves,” says Kelli Gray-Meisner, RDN.

Super blooms, extreme weather, fires, insects, and human health, these seemingly separate things impact each other – for better or worse. Join a panel of experts as they tease out the relationships being built and destroyed by climate change. They also share how we as individuals can work to limit negative impacts and create positive outcomes.

Watch — Climate Change: What it Means for Our Agriculture & Our Health – Future Thought Leaders Series Presented by the Berry Good Food Foundation