Kellan and Kory break down two important factors of disease: antibiotic resistance and ancient microbes being released from permafrost.
Antibiotic Resistance Threatens Modern Medicine
Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
Biggest Threats and Data
WHO Article: “New Report Calls for Urgent Action to Avert Antimicrobial Resistance Crisis”
Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/collapsepod)
Kellan and Kory break down two important factors of disease: antibiotic resistance and ancient microbes being released from permafrost.
Antibiotic Resistance Threatens Modern Medicine
Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
Biggest Threats and Data
WHO Article: “New Report Calls for Urgent Action to Avert Antimicrobial Resistance Crisis”
Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/collapsepod)
Episode 34 - Infectious Disease
Kory: [00:00:00] You know, Kellan if we had started this podcast a couple of years ago, and had brought up the idea of disease outbreaks as being a serious contribution to collapse I think it would be pretty tough for people to envision it. It would seem kind of like this crazy out there unlikely thing. And of course, because of 2020 and coronavirus and everything that happened I think it's opened up people's eyes to what potential there is for disease to wreak havoc on our health system on our economies and on society as a whole.
The topic of today's episode is on infectious disease. And while that's a huge topic, so we're not going to cover every bit of it, we are going to go into a couple of things that I think are very relevant to collapse and to me honestly, are pretty terrifying.
Kellan: [00:00:58] Yeah, you and I, through our research have both become aware that the likelihood of more and more infectious diseases is increasing. And in the past, if somebody would have convinced me of that, I might've just thought like, wow. That'll be sad to deal with the disease itself. But having just gone through the last 14 months it's crazy to see what an impact the coronavirus has had on. Every aspect of society. What it's done to politics and the economy and supply chains, the effect it's had on mental health, on the way that people interact with each other and the way that people react to events.
So to think that even though we might not have a global pandemic like the coronavirus every year. The fact that we are going to see more and more infectious diseases, it's scary. It's alarming. And it feels important to become more educated about.
Kory: [00:01:45] Yeah. And honestly, I kind of hated researching this topic and I hate talking about this because I think I'm a little bit of a hypochondriac in that when I hear about a disease. Or a sickness. And it scares me, like I will wake up the next day with symptoms. And I know it's all in my mind. I've had it happen several times. And usually those symptoms don't subside and my anxiety around it doesn't subside until like I get seen by a doctor and they're like, no, you're fine. And then I never think about it again and the symptoms magically disappear.
So this makes me a little nervous to think about the types of things that we're going to experience in the future. How those things could both accelarate collapse and how collapse will also have an impact on how prevalent these diseases are as well.
So I think it'd be good to start off with talking about a way in which we are directly increasing our own probability of catching diseases in the future because with many things in collapse it's all brought on by ourselves, we kind of only have ourselves to blame. And in this case specifically, I'm talking about through antibiotic resistance. You know, This is one of those topics that you hear the words, antibiotic resistance, and it sounds like medical terminology and maybe boring. But it's actually a pretty big deal and it's going to cause a significant amount of problems in the future.
So as you probably know, antibiotics are drugs designed to kill bacteria or fungi that can cause deadly infections. The discovery of penicillin in the 1920s actually resulted, they think, in an average human lifespan increasing by 20 years. So similar to what we talked about last week with the Haber Bosch process, this is a technology that greatly increased our population and one that we now rely on at our current population level. For societal survival. Basically without antibiotics the human lifespan and our population would decrease significantly.
The same is true if there's an increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria and fungi, meaning that the antibiotics that were once able to kill them no longer have an effect on them.
Kellan: [00:03:36] This might seem like a bit of a tangent, but as you start saying this, it makes me think of some documentary I saw a long time ago about the evolution of warfare, and specifically weaponry. You know, and as somebody would develop a more advanced sword the opposing army would eventually develop a more advanced shield or more advanced armor. And each side continues to ratchet up more and more. And you think about the kind of military weaponry we have now, and the type of military defense, and how extremely advanced they are. You get to a point where the weapons cause such extreme destruction that there's really nothing you can do.
So, I don't know a whole lot about this topic. I'm excited to learn more from you on this part of it. It's fascinating to think that as we have developed these antibiotics that can fight off bacteria that the bacteria evolves into something even stronger that's harder to protect ourselves from.
Kory: [00:04:27] Yeah, I like your analogy. You know, another one I've heard is that the strongest fish are the ones that are in shark prone waters, that sort of thing. So, the more, you have to fight against something to survive, the stronger you become. And that is what happens with bacteria. And we'll talk about that a little bit more in detail. But it's interesting to me that we're facing this issue because once again, as a society, we've cut corners in the name of profits, in the name of efficiency.
Ya know, just like last week, we talked about how the current practice of tilling soils and using chemicals in an effort to make them more efficient and for farmers to make more money has put us in danger of hitting peak soil. And it's the same thing now with, with antibiotics.
So before going into specifically how we're cutting corners and kind of causing this to happen, I want to kind of give an idea of what the scope of the problem is. So right now, every year around 700,000 people die globally due to antibiotic resistant bacteria and fungi. By the year, 2050 the who is predicted, and this is just 29 years from now, that number will be around 10 million annually. So that's an increase of almost 15 times as many people dying each year. And like most projections, those could even possibly be understated right? There's no way to truly predict it.
But to put into perspective those 10 million deaths, right now less than 60 million people die per year of all causes. So an increase in these deaths is like a 17% increase of all deaths that happen every year. You know, you think about the COVID 19 pandemic and it's killed 3.3 million people in the last 15 months. So it's been more than a year, and we're talking about three times as many people dying every single year in just 29 years from now. And like everything else, it will come gradually, it's not like 2050 will come and all of a sudden 10 million people will be dying. This is going to continue increasing every year. And if it were just about deaths, That would be one thing. But really the problem is much more than that. And we're going to talk a little bit more about the other problems later. But for now, I just wanted to kind of give a scope of how big of a deal this really is and what we're talking about.
And before getting into the other issues I think let's talk a little bit more going back to that question about what are we doing to cause this, why is it happening?
So we're just overusing and we're abusing antibiotics. So when an antibiotic is used, It'll kill all or most of the present bacteria, but in some cases, some of that bacteria survives. And just like in your analogy, it makes it grow stronger and makes that antibiotic less effective.
And when you do that over and over and over again, you can create basically super bacteria that can completely ignore the antibiotics altogether. And this is especially true if antibiotics are being used when they shouldn't be, so if an infection isn't present or if they're used incorrectly. So if someone's taking a lesser dose than they should, not taking them at the right intervals, that sort of thing.
So in humans, this is a major issue, especially in the global south in developing countries. India for example, has a healthcare system that is inaccessible to millions of its citizens. And so what happens is you know, the costs are too high, they don't have the infrastructure for everybody to be able to have access. And so most of the poorest citizens only have access to unlicensed informal. Healthcare providers. Ya know, We're talking about people who are either claiming to be doctors, maybe they've had some med school experience maybe they were even a doctor once upon a time. But they aren't licensed. They're not well-regulated.
And big pharma for decades has come in and offered huge incentives for them to push antibiotics to people, even if they're not necessary. Ya know, pharmaceutical salespeople will push incorrect antibiotics just because they're more profitable. So even if they know that it's not the right antibiotic for a certain problem, they'll still push that one because they're getting paid more to. Doctors also will prescribe incorrect antibiotics and they'll do it in incorrect amounts based on what the patient can afford. So if a patient comes in and says, I really only have X amount of money, the doctor will be like, oh, that's fine. I'll just give you half of the doses that you're supposed to take.
But that in turn is creating this environment for bacteria to become resistant and flourish. And this is a problem everywhere. It's mainly happening in the global south in developing countries, but the US has this issue as well. In 2019 ProPublica found more than 700 doctors had received $1 million or more each from drug companies to push certain drugs. So, I mean, you think of a doctor they're supposed to be neutral. They're supposed to prescribe you, just what you need in uh, each exact scenario.
And yet these big pharmaceutical companies are pressuring doctors. They're incentivizing them to push specific things. And like this said, over 700 doctors that they had found had been paid more than a million dollars. Just insane. You know, there's also big parties. Big, basically vacations, all expenses paid. They're able to do it and keep it legal because they say that they're seminars and trainings, but really what they are is " we're going to pay for you to go on the vacation so that you'll push our products."
Kellan: [00:09:12] So when I think about antibiotics, I think of them as a very good thing. But what I'm hearing from you is that if they're not used correctly, right, if they're used in the wrong situations or with the incorrect frequency or the incorrect dosages that is the kind of environment that allows bacteria to become resistant to our antibiotics. Is that correct?
Kory: [00:09:32] Yeah, that's right. And I mean, even when used correctly, It can still have the same effect. It can still allow for bacteria to become resistant. It just wouldn't be at the same rate. And it might be more excusable because you're saving a life, right? Like you're using it as it's intended, it's doing its job. Whereas when it's not being used as intended it's pointless. You're dramatically increasing the amount of resistance that can be built up and for relatively low return.
And so that was just with people. This is also a major problem with animals. And in this area, the West is the worst. Europe and especially the United States. You know, modern agriculture practices lead to huge corporate farms trying to pack as many animals in the smallest area that they can. I'm sure you've seen videos or images of dairy cows just crammed together or chickens, you know, thousands of chickens in these buildings. A healthy farm doesn't do that. And in order to try and keep the animals in good health, in order to try and prevent diseases from spreading amongst those animals they'll just give them all antibiotics. Even without them having any signs of any sort of bacterial infections or anything.
It's actually believed that around 80% of all antibiotics are given to animals through agriculture. There's been studies done that show that in farms all over the world, nearby communities are being. Inundated with these antibiotic resistant bacteria and fungi being carried through water, by wind, through insects, rodents, farmers going home to their families from the farm, all sorts of things.
There's also been an increase in zoonotic diseases, meaning ones that originate in animals and then are transferred to humans. And so there's this huge concern for future pandemics, you know, as we've seen from COVID 19, which came from an animal, that basically we're just increasing every day that we're using too many antibiotics, the probability that diseases will jump from animals to humans, but we're also just increasing the environment in which a ton of bacteria exists. And we have less weapons with which to fight it.
And as a side note, The same infections cause issues with livestock and animals as well. So, you know, in the future, we're going to be dealing with these resistant bacteria wreaking havoc, not just on people, but on our food sources, which as we've talked about recently are already under an enormous amount of stress. So it's just one more thing to worry about when it comes to food supply.
Kellan: [00:11:51] So this takes me back to the previous analogy. As you increase the weapons you increase the armor. And it makes me wonder, like, yeah, we have these antibiotics. And so bacteria develops a resistance to that. But can't we then just create a stronger antibiotics that will resist that stronger bacteria?
Kory: [00:12:10] Yeah, so up until the 1990s there was quite a bit of like research and investment being put into the discovery of new antibiotics. But the last time that an entirely original class of antibiotics was discovered was in the 1980s. And since the 1990s, there has been a severe decline in the amount of investment and research into new antibiotics. And we're hardly coming up with any new ones.
Studies have shown and they believe that our innovation is not going to be able to keep up with how quickly bacteria is mutating. And they say that we're already in a pretty massive shortage of new antibiotics. And Kellan, if you had to give one guess as to why we are not coming up with lots of new antibiotics or doing the research or doing the investments, what would be your guess as to why?
Kellan: [00:12:52] Am I be going out on a limb here, but I assume it's because it's not where the money's at.
Kory: [00:12:56] Yeah, it's not profitable for pharmaceutical companies. They've got other stuff they can push. It costs a lot to do the research, to find new antibiotics. And since we're in a system where money matters. There's no requirement for finding new antibiotics, people just aren't doing it anymore.
So Kellan and I, growing up, actually went to middle school with someone who passed away. He was playing football and I believe in practice or something he got a big scrape on his thigh. And one day shortly after his mom found him passed out. And they took him to the hospital and he ended up dying rather quickly from a staph infection. So staphylococcus is bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. If you've heard of staph disease, that's a really common one. Also, salmonella is one. Gonorrhea is another one. There are a bunch of them and they can be transmitted huge number of ways.
And while that story was tragic, and there are a lot of people every year as mentioned that are dying from these infections, the number of deaths isn't the only issue that we're going to be facing from this. You know right now around 2.8 million people from the United States get some sort of antibiotic resistant infection each year. And of those about 35,000 die. But if we expect that 2.8 million number to multiply many times over the next 30 years we're talking potentially tens of millions of us citizens alone dealing with those infections.
Beyond being more deadly, they also increase the required length of hospital stays which would increase financial strains on the patients and it would also push healthcare capabilities to the limits. We've seen how fragile our healthcare system is during COVID 19. It's kind of shown us there's a lot of cracks in that foundation and a lot that could push it over the edge and having a 10 times increase in the number of these types of infections and extended stays, that sort of thing could definitely cause strains in the health care system.
One really interesting thing to me about this whole thing is that these types of infections spread most commonly in hospitals. You know, People with the sicknesses go into the hospital and it gets all over everything. It gets on tools. It gets on sheets and walls and gets transmitted all around. Well, the hospital also is the place where people are getting cut open. It's where they come in with wounds. It's where people with decreased autoimmune responses are, so it's also where people are most vulnerable to getting these infections.
Infections like this can be introduced through UTI's, pneumonia wounds, yeast infections, sinus and ear infections, strep throat, sepsis. So there's just tons of ways for it to happen. It's not like they're only sexually transmitted or anything that they can be caught in so many ways.
And antibiotics right now in the us are used just for tons of different things. So, if antibiotics became less useful then I'm gonna, I'm gonna list them off here, but these are treatments that people would either not be able to have any longer, or it would at least put them at a very increased risk for infection. So 1.7 million people in the us are treated for sepsis each year. 1.2 million women have C-sections every year. And this is all just in the U S by the way, 30 million people with diabetes. And treatments for diabetes often involve antibiotics. 33,000 organ transplants, 500,000 dialysis patients, 650,000 cancer patients. Chemotherapy. It is very difficult to do without antibiotics because infection is so common. Rheumatoid arthritis and things, as simple as asthma. So just imagine a world in which going to the hospital or to a nursing home is more expensive, because you're going to be there longer. The staff and resources are more strained, which would likely also increase the cost. There's a higher risk of infection. You know, the hospital becomes almost a dangerous place to be. And if people stop going there altogether, there are going to be more people dying of diseases outside of the hospital unnecessarily. And that's going to create even higher chances of an infection increasing in the community. So altogether it's a pretty dangerous premise for the healthcare industry as a whole.
And again, it's just shocking to me to think that all of this is supposed to be as intense as predicted by 2050. The time from here to there is not that far and it's going to be increasing all along the way.
So then lastly, you know, economically speaking, it's also very tough on nations. We've talked about with catabolic collapse there's only so much money and resources to put into things. If this is just another problem on top of all of the other problems added up as we go into the coming decades, it's just another thing that either isn't going to have enough resources to take care of, or if resources are put towards it, they're being taken away from something else. So, right now just the six most common strains of bacteria cost around $4.6 billion to treat in the United States alone.
So if we talk about 30 years from now and the crazy increases in costs, and then also just globally the cost. Just wild.
The WHO says that by 2030, so that's just nine years from now, antibiotic resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty, all by itself. It's likely that developing nations with already fragile healthcare systems are going to be hit by this much sooner. Many of them already are. Tuberculosis. Typhoid fever. All these diseases that are pretty common in third world countries that we don't have to deal with too much here. They're already wreaking havoc on people. And so the increase of it happening in those third world countries and the thought that it's also going to increase here as well, to me, it's just pretty terrifying.
Kellan: [00:18:18] Yeah, I agree. It's terrifying. And I think what terrifies me most out of everything that you said are those predictions from some very credible sources, like from the WHO. Like for them to say that in the next nine years 24 million people could we put into extreme poverty because of this antibiotic resistance, it makes me realize it's not a fringe thing it's a real serious problem.
And I think I forget how recent of a phenomenon antibiotics are. So as you described what we're up against and what's coming in future years, if you layer that on top of everything else that we've talked about in previous episodes and what we expect conditions too deteriorate into, I mean when you get more and more people in poverty, you get less hygiene. You get plumbing issues, you get, you know, less cleaning supplies. I probably can't just go to the store and load up on. Clorox wipes.
I started to think about all the mass migrations. You know, I recently flew on an airplane, which I hadn't done for a long time because of the pandemic, but it immediately became clear to me why it was so important for nations to shut down their borders, and for there to be such strict guidelines around travel. Just being in an airport and seeing the thousands of people coming from all different directions, I can only imagine once you've got all these mass migrations. And in all of those conditions to think the medicine we rely so heavily upon won't be able to save us. It's scary.
Kory: [00:19:41] Yeah. You know, it's interesting. Like we were saying earlier, it's another technology that we created that did so much good, saved so many people, it extended life expectancy by so much. But it's a crutch and it's a crutch that we're quickly ripping out from underneath ourselves and we're not going to have anything to catch us. There are a lot of examples of this type of thing where we've built up the complex system that is our societies today, but it's a system that we can't maintain.
And I think this is one of the most perfect examples that we've actually brought up of how catabolic collapse will function, is functioning. The process was already put in place 30 years ago when we stopped developing new antibiotics. And why didn't we? Well, simply because it wasn't profitable. And in the future, the situation might be so dire that profitability isn't what matters and we'll do it at whatever cost but that cost will come in the form of precious resources that could be utilized in other places, and that by taking those away we're going to be weakening some other important infrastructure.
And you know, all of this that we've talked about so far with antibiotic resistance, this is just one piece of the whole disease puzzle. We haven't talked at all I mean, this is just bacteria that, you know, viruses. The increased potential for future pandemics. You know, that could make COVID-19. Basically look like child's play in their severity. There are so many other things yet to talk about.
Kellan: [00:20:58] Yeah, I absolutely agree. What you've mentioned so far is terrifying on its own. And yet it's just one piece of the puzzle here. And that's where I get to step in. There are a number of other reasons why we are likely to experience more and more infectious diseases. And to kind of paint the picture I want to start by sharing one specific example with you, but first in order to do that, I want to define just a couple of terms.
So the first one is permafrost. We've talked about permafrost in the past. Essentially, it was just a layer of soils, that freezes. It always remains frozen. I think it has to be frozen for two or more years to even be considered permafrost. It's not necessarily the surface layer. It can be way down deeper than the surface. And in fact, In some places, permafrost is a thousand feet deep.
And it's interesting because plants and animals don't decompose in permafrost. It's essentially like a time capsule. And I don't know if you've seen some of this stuff that has been falling each year. But I was blown away as I looked into this. You know, seeing images of a 10,000 year old baby mammoth or an 18,000 year old dog. Or a 40,000 year old horse. Or a wooly rhino, right? These things that we don't even have any more of these animals. They're coming to the surface. They're thawing.
And we mentioned in the past that in the Arctic region of the planet, temperatures are rising two to three times as fast as the rest of the planet. So that's one important piece of context. Another for this specific example is anthrax. And I'm curious, Kory what you think of when you hear anthrax?
Kory: [00:22:29] I think of nine 11 and letters being sent to the president with a suspicious white powder inside them.
Kellan: [00:22:36] Yeah. That's honestly all that I knew about it. I just knew it was some form of biological terrorism. I remember when there were all the news stories about those letters being sent and basically if you were to receive one and open it up you're already probably going to die. That white powder contains the spores of a deadly bacteria. So anthrax is the infection caused by that bacteria. And it's actually something that occurs naturally and pretty frequently, usually in livestock.
But there's lots of different ways people can catch that infection. They're skin infections, which is how it usually goes. The risk of death from a skin anthrax infection is 23.7%. But if you get an intestinal infection, the risk of death jumps to anywhere between 25 to 75%. And respiratory anthrax has a mortality of 50 to 80%, even with treatment.
So anyways, with all of that as a backdrop, Here's what happened just five years ago. In 2016 there was a heat wave that caused a lot of permafrost thaw. Later that year, in this really remote part of Siberia, it's a part of the Siberian Tundra called the yamal peninsula, they had this mysterious outbreak. 90 people were hospitalized. A 12 year old boy died, and Russian officials identified the disease as anthrax bacteria. So became extremely urgent that they take care of it. They found that over 2000 reindeer were infected. And so Russian officials burned 2000 reindeer carcasses to try and get rid of it.
And they were immediately trying to figure out where did this come from? There hadn't been an anthrax outbreak for over 70 years. And what they identified as the leading theory is it a came from a reindeer carcass. You know, a reindeer that had died 75 years earlier, and had just kind of been stuck in the permafrost until this heat wave came along and melted it.
So the anthrax spores got into the water and soil and spread to other reindeer. And as I started reading that, I was like, okay, is that just some farfetched theory? But apparently there's a sophisticated science and how they can point to what kind of strain it is, and they can do a genome sequence analysis and identify the similarities between strains and really trace things back.
And so they're confident that this outbreak came from the carcass of an animal that had died decades before and had resurfaced with the melting of permafrost.
So just with anthrax that's really scary because early in the 20th century there were repeated anthrax outbreaks in Siberia. And more than a million reindeer died. And there are about 7,000 burial grounds scattered across Northern Russia. And they're not very deep because it's hard to dig deep holes in permafrost. And what's perhaps even more concerning is all the other really devastating diseases in the past, that have the potential to resurface. Like the Spanish flu, the bubonic plague, smallpox.
And just as an example of that, the scientists have discovered fragments of RNA from a 1918 Spanish flu virus in corpses buried in mass graves in Alaska's Tundra.
So permafrost is an excellent preserver of viruses and microbes because it's cold, it's dark. There's no oxygen. We've got 35 million people that live around permafrost. And the planet is warming up. So I want to pause there and get your thoughts on that, Kory.
Kory: [00:25:59] Yeah, I was going to say good thing we're leaving the permafrost alone. Right? Good thing it's going to stay where it is for a long time. Yeah, I immediately thought of, of course, like you said, the heat waves, the zombie fires, the release of methane. Basically all the microbes that are coming back to life. And it's terrifying to think, you know, you just named all those past disease outbreaks that could be buried in the soil.
You know, you talked about the anthrax from 75 years ago amongst reindeer. And what's terrifying to me is to think about what happened hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of years ago that we know nothing about. If we know about a million reindeer that died 75 years ago from anthrax, think about the tens or hundreds of millions of animals buried within the permafrost that died of who knows what. There could be diseases we don't have any idea about or any way to treat that could come out of nowhere and wipe us out. It's terrifying.
Kellan: [00:26:56] Yeah, that's actually a perfect segue to a few examples. Because if there's diseases from recent decades or centuries, we at least have a grasp on what we're dealing with. But if you think about you know, diseases from millennia ago we're totally unprepared. And it might seem like something farfetched. Right. It might seem like it's as likely that a meteor will hit us as it is that we're going to experience some sort of a new virus coming back from thousands of years ago.
Kory: [00:27:22] Yeah, it kind of seems like something that you'd read in like a fiction novel.
Kellan: [00:27:26] Yeah, exactly. But let me just give you a couple of examples of what scientists have found. So NASA did a study in 2005. They successfully revived bacteria that had been encased in a frozen pond in crap for 32,000 years.
Kory: [00:27:42] I don't know if I'd call that successful. Like leave that crap alone.
Kellan: [00:27:45] And here's the thing once the ice melted those microbes began swimming around as if nothing had happened. 32,000 years later. In 2014 there was a study in which they revived two viruses that have been trapped in Siberian permafrost for 30,000 years. I'd try to pronounce the names, but I'd probably slaughter it. But they were both considered giant viruses. And by the way, viruses are really weird. Scientists can't seem to agree on whether a virus is even a living thing or not. It's just strands of genetic code.
But like HIV has nine genes. Whereas one of these giant viruses they discovered has 500. So that's why they call it a giant virus. But the scary thing about these is that once they were revived, They quickly became infectious. And we're fortunate because in this case, These particular viruses only infect a single celled amoebas. But 30,000 years later, As soon as they're revived, they began to infect.
In one case scientists we're able to revive an 8 million year old bacterium that had been lying dormant in ice. And these viruses and bacteria, they're not just few and far between. You know, there were a couple of ice cores, ice samples taken from a Tibetan glacier. This was in 1992 and in 2015. And they found 33 different groups of viruses each with hundreds of individual members. And here's what blows my mind. Of all of those, 28 of the viruses were completely unknown to science.
So it's just crazy. We talked about the permafrost. We haven't even really touched on glaciers. You know, glaciers cover 10% of the planet's land surface. And although glaciers and permafrost are formed in different ways, it's the same idea. You've got stuff that is just preserved that if it's melted you know, in the case of these viruses, they can be immediately revived.
But I will say that not all viruses and bacteria survive when frozen and thawed, and not all viruses are able to infect humans. You know, and one thing in our favor is that the kind of bacteria that can survive in cold climates and be frozen and be fine isn't likely to survive in a warm host body like a human.
There's also some comfort in the fact that the scientists haven't reactivated some of the most dangerous viruses found in permafrost because it's banned by international law. And it's also good to know that viruses are highly specialized and so ancient viruses haven't evolved to infect humans. But many viruses replicate very frequently and mutate very frequently.
Kory: [00:30:16] Yeah. And I don't know a lot about viruses and the process that they go through to mutate and how they can, you know, jump from one host to another. But it is terrifying to think, like you said, about how fast they are able to replicate and that they can mutate and then they can change in order to survive. And with the you know, millions of different bacteria out there. And so many that we don't know about. If we are very rapidly over the next several decades just melting a ton of permafrost and just reviving them all at once you know, the ability for them to, it would really only take one bad one to figure out how to infect an animal. And then as it quickly goes from animal to animal, and then, you know, if it finds a way to jump to humans, it's hard to know how serious of a problem that would be, there really is no way to know until it happens. And we can just hope that it doesn't happen.
But it is one of those things that just feels like a matter of time before we see on the news, some little blip about an unknown disease found in Northern Siberia you know, that's infected a few people. And then all of a sudden it's everywhere. You know, We experienced that with COVID we've seen it before and this time it feels like there's the potential for it to be something just totally out of hand.
Kellan: [00:31:31] Yeah, it's scary. When I first heard about like ancient diseases deep in the permafrost, like you said before, it seemed like something fictional. It seems like something out of a scifi novel. And it seems so farfetched. But the fact that scientists have found so many of these viruses and other ancient diseases and that they've been quote unquote, successful and reviving them means that there's a high likelihood we'll experience at least some of them.
So we talked at length about antibacterial resistance and also about these past diseases that can resurface due to the melting of glaciers and permafrost. But unfortunately that's not where it stops. There are other reasons why we're moving toward a greater likelihood of more and more infectious diseases. One of them is that if you look at where we have the biggest problems with diseases, it's around the equator. It's where the earth is warmest. And as the earth warms, northern countries are going to be more susceptible to outbreaks of Southern diseases, like malaria or cholera, or Dengue fever or any of these other pathogens that thrive at warmer temperatures.
As one example of that I don't know if I'll say this right there's a flesh eating bacteria called Vibrio vulnificus that apparently does well in warm and brackish water. And global incidents of this flesh-eating bacteria have been steadily rising for the last four decades. And we now have 80,000 cases in the us each year. So a lot of the cases come from just digesting I'm cooked fish or other seafood. And that can make you sick. It gives you diarrhea and a fever and whatever else. But in other cases if it makes its way into an open wound it can cause lesions that grow rapidly and in some cases it's fatal. So that's just one example of you know, a disease that we're seeing a drastic increase in and some people have said, well, You know, Obviously correlation isn't causation. But in this case, all the research that they've done, they've been able to tie it directly back to the effects of global warming.
You know, we talked about some of those viruses in the permafrost. Because Arctic sea ice is melting the north shore of Siberia is becoming more accessible by sea. And as a result, we're getting more industrial exploitation. So mining for minerals and gold, drilling for oil and natural gas. That's all becoming more profitable now that there's access to that region.
In the past, even if there were some of these diseases that were surfacing there wasn't as much of a concern you know that they would infect humans because there weren't that many people around. But now because it's more profitable there's more opportunity there as a result of global warming.
So the last thing I'll mention, this one blows my mind. Apparently the sheer quantity of microbes locked up in the ice caps and glaciers around the world totals 1000 times the biomass of all humans on earth. So we talked about how not all bacteria can survive in ice but even if it isn't alive, As all those microbes, all those nutrients, get washed out to the ocean, it causes algal or planktonic blooms and those use up the oxygen in the water and it kills the fish. So Kory you in the past have mentioned dead zones because, you know, these fertilizers from modern agriculture, get washed out to the ocean and that causes these algal blooms. But apparently there's a big potential for that even just from glaciers and ice caps melting.
So on top of that. You know, we mentioned before the conditions we're likely to face the mass migrations, less resources, less medical care, more poverty. And all of that is a breeding ground for more disease.
Kory: [00:35:08] It's just crazy because the more you talked about that, The more I just realize there is so much to this topic. You know, each example that you just brought up, we could go into way deeper and do a full episode on. And I think that is our plan is to come back and do another episode on disease in the future, because there's a lot of things we didn't even touch on. You know, prion diseases, for example. Are something that's very interesting. Um, Chronic wasting disease. It's a fascinating topic. So I think we'll talk about that another time. We'll talk about some other specific diseases.
And maybe get into a little bit more About how our global system is set up in such a way to make the transmission of disease so easy and why the conditions for pandemics are so perfect.
But this has been super interesting to me, it's really illuminating. I think this is kind of one of the more mysterious aspects of collapse. You know, we may collapse completely before we ever see a crazy disease like this come up out of the permafrost. I think we'll definitely see an increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria, whether or not, that will be a huge contributor to collapse is yet to be seen. But more and more each week when we do these episodes ya know we realized how much everything is so tied together. Each problem that we discuss feeds off of other problems that we've already discussed and feeds off problems that we'll discuss in the future to create this sort of massive domino effect.
And all I can really think is, man, it is just an interesting time to be alive. We've talked before about one of the coping mechanisms of dealing with collapse is just being curious about how it's going to all unfold. And you know, almost having the opportunity to be alive during a very interesting time in human history. Whether or not, we'll be alive to see collapse play out to its fullest is a whole other story, but nonetheless, we will definitely be witness to some very interesting times during our lifetimes.
Kellan: [00:36:57] Yeah, we've talked about coping in the past. And different ways that people cope and different ways we can cope. And it's tied really closely to preparedness right? As you learn and accept concepts like these, naturally you're going to want to be as prepared as possible.
AsI've done some research on preparedness. You know, we typically think of gathering supplies. Food and water and making sure you'll have electricity or some form of energy you know, to give you heat in the winter or stuff like that. But I've seen some resources that point to just physical, preparedness on a personal fitness level. That one of the best ways you can prepare for difficult times ahead is to get on top of your health as much as possible. And obviously, depending on what cards you've been dealt, a lot of that's outside of your control. But if we're looking at an increase in infectious diseases one of the best things I can do. Is to try and eat healthy, stay fit, get enough sleep, take care of my hygiene, right. All those things, I think. We'll make you more resistant to any of these potential diseases.
Kory: [00:37:57] Yeah, great point. And on top of that, I think some of the best ways to be prepared is also just with knowledge. Like you said it's not always just stockpiling stuff. It shouldn't even, I mean, that should be a part of it, but just a part of it. You know, I am going to take from this episode that I need to learn how to dress a wound and clean a wound to avoid infections. You know, they say that in a grid down situation, you know, where, where there's no access to a hospital and things like that some of the most common forms of death in a situation like that is going to be from basic infections. A paper cut. You know, an Infected toenail. Stupid things that right now are insignificant and mean nothing, but that could be life or death.
So, anyway, this has been really great, kellan thank you for putting your part together and as always, we appreciate our listeners. Thank you guys for sticking with us. Feel free to reach out. We love to hear your feedback and your questions. We're super grateful for everyone that supports us on Patreon. We'd also love if you follow us on Twitter, it's @collapsepod. And as always, if you haven't done so yet, please leave us a review.