Tuesday, May 06, 2014
Around the world, bacteria are becoming immune to antibiotics. This has happened for a two reasons -- people misusing them and doctors over-prescribing them. Bacteria are evolving naturally and building resistance rather than dying and disappearing. The problem is not new. Early developers of antibiotics foresaw a day when new strains of hardier "bugs" would appear. That time is here. What's to be done? The world needs new antibiotics and it needs a global PR campaign to teach doctors and patients how to use them correctly. There are two lessons. Doctors shouldn't dole out antibiotics for every symptom that they encounter. Patients should take the full course of antibiotics given to them to prevent surviving bacteria from developing resistance. It sounds simple, but when one is dealing with billions of people of all socioeconomic levels and learning, it isn't. It is hard to decide where to start -- in developed countries or Third World lands. People are better educated in developed countries, but the Third World has a greater need. It is not clear who should be teaching these lessons -- governments, NGOs, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, all of the above? Nature doesn't change to accommodate humans, and man has only limited control. Already going to a hospital is a risk for the "super-bugs" that lurk there. The longer we wait, the worse it will be.