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The End of the Antibiotic As We Know It? The End of the Antibiotic As We Know It?

The End of the Antibiotic As We Know It?

by Peter Smith
April 8, 2011


Today, the World Health Organization would like to draw your attention to on one the world's most critical global-health issues: antimicrobial resistance.

It's not just doctor's offices and hospitals. Antimicrobial treatments—antibiotic drugs, in other words—have proliferated on farms. More antibiotics are now being fed to animals in North Carolina than given to the entire human population in the United States. These treatments often kill some but not all pathogenic bacteria, so the bacteria that survives is stronger, which practically guarantees the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In a recent op-ed, The Economist wrote:

There are good reasons to hope that the extreme threat of a resistant epidemic will never come to pass—not least that 65 years of routine antibiotic use have failed to prompt one. Even so, the lesser problems of resistance continue to gnaw away at medicine, hurting people and diverting resources from more productive uses, often in the countries that can least afford it.

If you care about antibiotic resistance, which you should, I'd suggest following Maryn McKenna, the author of Superbug, who's diligently following the topic here.

Chart: The Economist, using data from the Infectious Diseases Society of America and Spellberg et al., 2004 (PDF).

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