If we don’t get off our collective butts, within 32 years all antibiotics will stop working because bacteria will have evolved immunity to all the existing antibiotics. About 11 million people a year will die of bacterial infections. From a medical point of view, we should:
- use each antibiotic rarely, but when we do, use a whacking huge dose to make sure we wipe out any bacteria with newly evolved partial resistance.
- devise a huge arsenal of possible antibiotics. We don’t want bacteria to get used to any particular one.
- always use the correct antibiotic for the correct organism.
- never use antibiotics to try to treat viruses no matter how strongly ignorant patients demand them.
- never give antibiotics to people or animals who are not sick.
- do a test to determine the cause of an infection before prescribing.
- Make sure everyone understands the Darwinian evolutionary process by which bacteria develop resistance to drugs, and the importance of the counter measures.
Unfortunately, capitalism pushes us to do all the wrong things to contain the problem:
- There is almost no research on new antibiotics. They are expensive to develop.
- You want to sell as much of your new antibiotic as possible, not restrict its use.
- You want people to buy it over the counter and use it inappropriately to increase sales.
- You want the drug to become useless when its patent expires so you can sell your patented replacement drug.
- 80% of antibiotics are given to healthy animals (cows, pigs, chickens, fish) in low doses to promote growth. These are ideal conditions for antibiotic resistant bacteria to evolve. Farmers do this because antibiotics are cheaper than hygiene. (In Europe they use hygiene and treat only sick animals with antibiotics.)
- Drug companies advertise directly to patients to get them to demand antibiotics without testing which bacteria are responsible for the given infection. When the doctor guesses, that means frequently wrong treatments.
- In Africa, pirates sell counterfeit/watered down drugs. These are ideal for helping bacteria develop immunity.
You can see why it is foolish to imagine capitalism will automatically solve this problem on its own. This is going to take some major government action. The pharmaceutical industry will do the work, but governments will have to provide the necessary incentives and disincentives and do the heavy lifting industry refuses to do.~ Roedy (1948-02-04 age:70)