Antibiotics: The Gateway To The Apocalypse

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Imagine everyone you love and care about being so sick that they are begging for it to finish them off. Imagine every doctor in the world becoming completely powerless to save them. Imagine seeing the world burn right before your eyes, and wondering how many days you have left. This could very well be what the world looks like if antibiotic resistance spreads around the world.  According to infectious disease expert Tom Frieden, “The more we look at drug resistance, the more concerned we are. It basically shows us that the end of the road isn't very far away for antibiotics.” Once we reach the end of that road, we’re headed straight off of a cliff. 

The term superbug does not sound nearly as alarming as it should. The word “bug” registers a tiny and harmless image in the human brain. Superbugs are anything but harmless. (Stephen Calderwood) “There is no real definition of a superbug”, according to Stephen Calderwood, MD,  president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. But basically, it's a bacterial infection that becomes immune to antibiotics. If there is one thing you do not want an infection to be, it is indestructible. 

To truly understand how horrifying superbugs really are, one would have to look back pre-1928, before antibiotics were created. In those times, an infection was as dangerous as cancer. If someone got an infection, there was a good chance it would kill you (Conover). Stepped on a nail? Dead. Had minor surgery? Dead. Scrape your knee?  Dead. Over six hundred thousand people died in the Civil War, and bacterial infection is believed to have killed more than any soldier in the war (Mrs.Howick). 

This all changed when scientist Alexander Fleming accidentally forgot to put up a petri dish of bacteria when he went home for the weekend. When he came back, he found that the bacteria had been destroyed by mold. This eventually lead to the birth of the very first antibiotic, Penicillin. This one discovery saved billions, maybe trillions of lives and even won Fleming a Nobel Prize. (Conover) 

For years after, antibiotics seemed like magic. This was up until the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Resistant bacteria are bacteria that have adapted to the antibiotics so that they can defeat and become resistant to them. Resistance can occur whenever someone does not take the full amount of prescribed antibiotics, takes them unnecessarily, or it can just happen by random chance. Once the resistance occurs, it can spread not only to other bacteria but even within other people. Over time, resistance can spawn all over the planet, rendering the antibiotic useless. Since all of modern medicine is built on effective antibiotics (Conover), losing even one could cause an enormous health calamity that would take generations to recover from, if ever. If billions could die from the loss of one, imagine what would result from the loss of several. 

Opprobrius. This word is defined on Dictionary.com as outrageously disgraceful or shameful. It is a perfect word to describe the US government’s efforts to try and stop resistant bacteria. If I were to grade them on all that they are doing as of right now, they would most definitely receive an F-. Antibiotic resistance is more of a threat to humanity than any type of drug, yet antibiotics are thrown around like candy.  According to the Food and Drug Administration eighty percent of these precious drugs are not even used for medicine, they are used in meats for farm animals, further aiding the spread of resistance. The Centers for Disease Control, or CDC for short, now estimates that every year at least two million people are infected with resistant bacteria, and at least twenty-three thousand die from them. That is a larger than the number of people dying of AIDS  every year (Nightmare Bacteria, PBS). Resistant bacteria are just as big an issue as global warming, if not bigger, yet nobody in political power is doing anything about it. The Trump Administration has even proposed funding cuts of up to 20 percent to programs and agencies that combat antibiotic resistance. (Nightmare Bacteria, PBS), which shows just how little the government cares for this very serious issue. 

If the U.S government put any effort into this issue, they would know that is a potential cure out there. Bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect bacteria instead of humans, have been found to be a potent remedy against the resistant bacteria. If you have never heard of them, that is because they are not currently available in the U.S. There are many reasons  to why this is so. For one thing, they would have to be approved by the CDC, which takes a significant amount of time and money, and they do not the fit the “one size fits all”  treatment paradigm of western drugs. This means that they would need to be specifically tailored to fit the needs of whomever they are treating. Since every single patient would require a completely different dosage, it would take some time to figure out a way to successfully turn them into prescription drugs if they were to enter into the States. Dozens of European studies in both children and adults have shown success in this type of therapy, so there is no excuse for the U.S to have not. Wasting anymore time will result in the loss of thousands of lives and resources, which is all the more reason that America needs to get on this issue as soon as possible ( Prevention.com). To quote Tim Lu, PhD MD from MIT, “It’s a change in the way we think about treating infections, I think that is the biggest hurdle in the way.”  

“Fifty years from today, cholesterol drugs that work now will work just as well as they do today. The cancer drugs that work now will work just as well as they do today. This is true with all of the other drug classes. Antibiotics are the only type of drug where the more we use, the more rapidly we lose. Whenever someone uses them they automatically become less effective for other people,” according to Dr. Brad Spellburg, author of Rising Plague (PBS). Unfortunately, studies have shown that over one-third of antibiotics are used when not necessary. If this continues, then humanity will soon enter a dark age of unimaginable horror on par with the Black Death. Modern medicine as we know it will be completely obsolete. Life as we know it will become a twisted hell, with the only escape being the sweet release of death. By 2050, superbugs could kill up to ten million people a year (Nightmare Bacteria, PBS). This is why we need to research as hard as possible for a solution, because if we do not, we might as well say our goodbyes right now. 

Adam Shaheen

WORKS CITED
(Adam Ruins Everything, Season 2 Episode 3, Why Our Misuse of Antibiotics Could Mean the End of Modern Medicine Created by Adam Conover, Trutv, Warner Brothers, 2017 ) 

(Frontline: Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria, PBS 2017 ) 

(A Cure Exists for Antibiotic-Resistant Infections So Why are Thousands of Americans Still Dying?  Koren Wetmore Prevention.com, 2015) 

(Tom Frieden-The more we look at drug resistance, the more concerned we are. It basically shows us that the end of the road isn't very far away for antibiotics”, Antibiotic-Resistant Strain of Bacteria Renews Fears of Superbug Arrival in the US, ABC News, 2016) 

(Stephen Calderwood- “There is No Real Definition of A Superbug”, Super Bugs, What They Are And How You Get Them, WebMD.com, 2015) 

(Mrs.Howick- “Bacterial infection is believed to have killed more than any soldier in the (civil) war”, General Biology with Lab, 2017.) 

(Report on US Meat Sounds Alarm on Resistant Bacteria, Stephanie Strom, The New York Times, 2016.) 

(Dr. Brad Spellburg-“Fifty years from today, cholesterol drugs that work now will work just as well as they do today.”, 

(Tim Lu- “It’s a change in the way we think about treating infections, I think that is the biggest hurdle in the way.”, Why Scientists Are Trying To Beat Back Bacteria, NPR, 2013)


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