I have noticed a growing number of reports in the news recently, about the concerns held by many biological scientists over the possibility of society heading towards a world without antibiotics. In the last couple of centuries, humanity has launched an all-out assault on the diseases which, for most of history, have had us at their heels. Since then there seems to have been an arms race between evolving bacteria and developing drugs. Unfortunately, from my limited knowledge, it seems that we’re creating the conditions which allows these ‘superbugs’ to develop; overusing antibiotics means that the bacteria which, through random mutations, happen to develop an immunity, will be guaranteed to take over as the dominant strain. The answer is generally to find new drugs, but in the last 30 years or so there has been a distinct lack of new discoveries. I’m not sure whether this is because there’s no profit motive in doing so or we’ve simply run out of options. I’m dearly hoping for Explanation 1.
Having grown up in an age of the utmost medical efficiency, where we can realistically expect to live to a grand age, where, until the age of 11 or so, I almost believed science as capable of anything, this concept is shocking. It’s been compared as great a threat to the UK (and the world, presumably) as terrorism, though I would say it’s far worse than that. A world in which people can die of infected cuts, where cancer, appendicitis, etc. kill simply as a result of treatment, is utterly terrifying.
The governments of the world need to invest more into scientific research for this issue, or to give companies motivations for conducting their own research. If the governments can’t be trusted to deal with such a long term issue, which is likely, then international organisations like the European Union or the United Nations should step in and campaign for it. The problem won’t go away, and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. It would be such a drag to get through 40 years of life then die of a paper cut, because governments were too busy trying to save money and avoid upsetting bankers.