“Post-Antibiotic Apocalypse”

Forget about preparing for zombie outbreaks. Well, not completely, for obvious reasons. The obvious reasons are that I believe it’s only a matter of time before 28 Days Later becomes a reality, but it’s not worth the energy worrying about. Instead, we should all worry about “the end of modern medicine” as we know it. Increasing antibiotic resistance means not being able to treat what we consider today to be regular, run of the mill infections. It means all surgery, c-sections, cancer treatments, and transplants become potentially lethal.

An article in The Guardian notes:

Each year about 700,000 people around the world die due to drug-resistant infections including tuberculosis, HIV and malaria. If no action is taken, it has been estimated that drug-resistant infections will kill 10 million people a year by 2050.

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, spoke recently at a symposium at Harvard Business School. He says the spread of antibiotic resistance is caused by several things:

Rampant overprescribing, to the widespread use of the drugs to promote livestock growth, and to the relative trickle of new drugs being developed as possible replacements…

The greatest antibiotic use — 70 percent — is in livestock, and more than half of that isn’t because the animals are sick, but for “growth promotion” in crowded settings….

The slow pace of drug development is largely due to poor economic incentives. Antibiotics tend to be inexpensive and taken by patients for a relatively short time, so there is less demand for them than for drugs for chronic conditions. Further, new antibiotics are used more sparingly so they will remain effective when resistance develops to other drugs, a strategy that, while sound from a public health standpoint, does not boost profits.

Drug companies, eager to unethically make as much money as possible, are in on the 28 Days Later plot. Oops, I mean drug companies should reconsider their strategy because if everyone dies no one is going to buy their drugs anyway.

On an more uplifting note, Halloween is coming up! This is a good time for everyone to watch or re-watch 28 Days Later, as well as the darker sequel 28 Weeks Later (or your favorite zombie-pandemic movie). Just be careful you don’t watch 28 Days instead, which I have accidentally done before.

Probably Nothing to Worry About

But the world is running out of antibiotics, according to a WHO report. Certainly I wouldn’t wouldn’t worry about it light of any possible impending pandemic.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardize progress in modern medicine,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “There is an urgent need for more investment in research and development for antibiotic-resistant infections including TB, otherwise we will be forced back to a time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery.”

In addition to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, WHO has identified 12 classes of priority pathogens – some of them causing common infections such as pneumonia or urinary tract infections – that are increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics and urgently in need of new treatments.

Tuberculosis, by the way, is spread via the air and affects your lungs. It used to be the leading cause of death in the 20th century. Then came antibiotics. What happens without them? And what happens without the antibiotics used to treat even more common infections like UTI’s? Well, with everything else going on, let’s hope we don’t find out.