The marvel of modern medicine has drastically changed the way society functions on an everyday basis. Obviously the benefits of the advancements from the past century outweigh the drawbacks, but some issues have arisen from our progress that threaten the very purpose for which the advancements were made. For instance, the discovery of the first antibiotic, Penicillen, in 1928 by Alexander Fleming was one of the most groundbreaking advancements in modern history, and has allowed for the treatment of bacterial infections since. This greatly reduced the death rate and pioneered a new realm of medicine that has been evolving to this day. However, times have changed and the mentality about medicine has as well.
Now, antibiotics are widely available, but the general population is not necessarily knowledgeable about their intended use. A World Health Organization (WHO) survey which indicated that ~66% of people thought antibiotics could be used to treat the common cold and flu, but this is not the case as the common cold and flu are viral infections and not bacterial. This mindset found in the population is probably due to the fact that many bacteria infections can present symptoms similar to those of viral infections. It also helps to explain the major issue with modern antibiotics: overuse. The overuse of antibiotics is slowly leading to frightening future in which antibiotics will no longer be effective.
Every time a sick person uses antibiotics, he or she increases the likely-hood that a few of the surviving bacteria will form resistances against the associated antibiotic. In short, this is making antibiotics less and less effective. In the long run, the overuse of antibiotics and the continual adaptation of bacteria may make it impossible to fight any bacterial infection. There is hope, however.
Many pharmaceutical companies have recognized the danger of antibiotic overuse. Some have dropped out of the market because it is becoming an increasingly hard field to garner funding for, and the return on investment is typically poor. However, other organizations are working to implement policy changes and create incentive for continuing development of newer antibiotics. For example the leaders of the drug industry in Switzerland all agreed on a plan to change funding for new antibiotics from quantity to quality. This creates incentive to develop new, better drugs rather than creating a ton of mediocre drugs for profit. Although development of new antibiotics is an important industry, there are other preventative measures that governments are taking.
The US federal budget allocated an additional $375 million last year to a few different agencies to better understand antibiotic resistance, the best prevention measures, and development of new antibiotics. Developing drugs to treat bacterial infections is important, but developing preventative measures to avoid those infections in the first place is just as crucial. Vaccines, public health measures, and managing antibiotic use can generally eradicate many of the issues with bacteria before they occur. It is important for the population to understand what they’re putting into their body and how it can effect them. Our future may depend on it.
For more information and a New York Times source article written by Aaron Carroll please click : here