““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.” —Alexander Fleming, 1945”—Prescient words from his acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize for discovering antibiotics, we’re seeing the dangerous outcome of his predictions prove more and more these days. It’s so easy to forget that simple infections which can result from any number of daily exposures to bacteria could cut down healthy individuals in the prime of their life prior to antibiotics. And overprescription and, as Fleming warned, ignorant usage, and abuse by agricultural livestock industries have rendered most of the ones we have near useless and lead to the emergence of dangerously treatment resistant bacteria. Medicine is driven by capitalism, and given that antibiotics are designed to be used post-infection, responsibly for short regimens, there is little capital gain in investing in their development, especially as the initial investments grow larger with the degree of difficulty from these new strains, as such, in the past few years the last corporation to have an antibiotic development team shut it down. We live with the increasingly real possibility that our future could be just as the past was, simple infections claiming countless lives.
FRONTLINE investigates the rise of deadly drug-resistant bacteria.
You can always count on Frontline to exemplify cutting issues through intimate human stories and efficient research reporting. A topic that has long needed to be at the forefront of conversations about today and posterity, not idiocy in Washington. Without public health security, all other debates are philosophical. Before things have really started to take a turn for the worse, drug resistant infections already claim more lives than HIV, and are so much harder to prevent the spread of even in the first world, and there is little hope for treatment. Misuse by overprescription and abuse by livestock farmers have rendered so many antibiotics useless and helped instill drug resistance, and now (as this episode does a great job of illuminating) no pharmaceutical companies research antibiotics because they’re designed to be readily available but prudently used for short regimens, meaning they’re cheap and not a source of perpetual customers.