"Health authorities have been struggling to convince the public that the threat of totally drug-resistant bacteria is a crisis. Earlier this year, British chief medical officer Sally Davies described resistance to antibiotics as a 'catastrophic global threat' that should be ranked alongside terrorism. In September, Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a blunt warning: 'If we're not careful, we will soon be in a post-antibiotic era. For some patients and some microbes, we are already there.' Now Maryn McKenna writes that we are on the verge of entering a new era in history and asks us to imagine what our lives would be like if we really lost antibiotics to advancing drug resistance. We'll not just lose the ability to treat infectious disease; that's obvious. But also: The ability to treat cancer, and to transplant organs, because doing those successfully relies on suppressing the immune system and willingly making ourselves vulnerable to infection. We'll lose any treatment that relies on a permanent port into the bloodstream — for instance, kidney dialysis. We'd lose any major open-cavity surgery, on the heart, the lungs, the abdomen. We'd lose implantable devices: new hips, new knees, new heart valves. We'd lose the ability to treat people after traumatic accidents, as major as crashing your car and as minor as your kid falling out of a tree. We'd lose the safety of modern childbirth. We'd lose a good portion of our cheap modern food supply because most of the meat we eat in the industrialized world is raised with the routine use of antibiotics, to fatten livestock and protect them from the conditions in which the animals are raised. 'And it wouldn't be just meat. Antibiotics are used in plant agriculture as well, especially on fruit. Right now, a drug-resistant version of the bacterial disease fire blight is attacking American apple crops,' writes McKenna. 'There's currently one drug left to fight it.'"
Hugh Pickens in his introduction to Maryn McKenna's article:
Hugh's Slashdot Article with slashdotter's comments:
We've had an article on this not long ago, but Search has let me down, plus I though this excellent article made it worth repeating this critical message. With our already compromised immune system, we more than most are reliant of antibiotics to save us from bacterial infections. Please use antibiotics responsibly, in accordance with your prescription and encourage others to do what they can to slow the development of antibiotic resistance so that antibiotics can still help us when we absolutely need them.
Further key points from McKenna's article
Sir Alexander Fleming, the Scottish biologist, pharmacologist and botanist who is best known for his discovery of penicillin, warned, when accepting his Nobel Prize in 1945 for Medicine “It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them… There is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.”
" 3 out of 10 people who contracted pneumonia before antibiotics were used in treatment, died"
"23,000 people die each year from antibiotic resistant infections in the USA"
“Sitting with a family, trying to explain that you have nothing left to treat their dying relative — that leaves an indelible mark on you,” he says. “This is not cancer; it’s infectious disease, treatable for decades.”
Some relevant comments from Slashdotters:
"Most of the deaths (14,000 out of 23,000 deaths caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the US) aren't due to skin infections, they are due to C. difficile intestinal infections acquired in hospitals. Starts out as colitis and then you shit yourself to death, infecting lots of other people in the hospital along the way."
"An earlier poster asked if the lack of corporate investment to find new antibiotics is a market failure, and the answer is yes. Besides the enormous dysfunction that permeates big pharma in general, the reality is that antibiotics are generally not nearly as profitable as once-a-day drugs that last a lifetime. Either provide regulatory incentives for antibiotic development or do more of the research at the government level or both."
Photo: Even flowers have bugs...