I have written about this before. I talked about my father’s bout with a nasty intestinal superbug that dragged on literally for years. I also quoted a doctor friend who chided her profession for being too cowardly to stand up to their own patients who demand antibiotics for colds and hangnails. Unless you’ve read up on those (like me) ringing the alarm bells on this slow moving train wreck that is coming our way, or if you’ve been in contact with people who have contracted a superbug and dealt with the preventable suffering that is caused by them, you may not even be aware of this potentially massive crisis.
Our insane abuse of antibiotics is incredibly dangerous and goes right along with our extractivist mindset that says we can keep polluting the land by extracting it’s carbon by any means necessary and keep destroying the air by burning all that carbon, and NEVER SUFFER ANY CONSEQUENCES.
If your goal is to to ruin the effectiveness of antibiotic drugs, I can think of two efficient ways. One would be to wildly overprescribe them—say, to people suffering from a cold virus, even though antibiotics work their magic on bacterial pathogens, not viral ones. The other would be to feed daily, low doses of them to animals confined by the thousands in vast indoor facilities. In both cases, you’re creating ideal conditions for bacteria to evolve to survive the drugs we throw at them: A percentage of bacteria withstands the chemical onslaught, and passes genes on to ever-heartier next generations.
The FDA and Agriculture Dept. have recommended that the meat industry stop using antibiotics on food animals. But if not for the growing organic food movement there’s been little voluntary movement from the industry to stop. The food industry uses 80% of all antibiotics. The AMA also has advised doctors to be much more discriminatory in dispensing antibiotic prescriptions, to little avail.
Like with climate change, we need media to latch onto such stories and raise the alarm, much like they would an active shooter situation in a neighborhood. The danger is silently approaching our doorsteps. Without more awareness and rational action to stop it, we will enter a “post-antibiotics” era where people will, once again, perish from infections that we thought we had conquered for all time.
Human hubris, like our new super bugs, seems to have no cure.