Antibiotic Resistance starts to kill big

It’s started to bite . For years LSS and many others have warned of the dangers of ignoring the problem of antibiotic resistant micro-organisms. With limited effect. Because now the consequences of that blithe ignorance are clear. Antibiotic resistance (1.3 million deaths in 2019) now kills more people every year than HIV (860 000) or malaria(640 000)

We’ll let Andrew Gregory of the Guardian tell the full grim statistics of the current situation [1]. His links to the Lancet study will allow thoughtful readers to dig deeper if they wish. Our role today is to consider how this avoidable catastrophe arose.

A growing disdain for state action The early developments of successive generations of antibiotics occurred in a climate of co-operation between Governments, Academia and Pharmaceuticals firms. R and D risks were essentially underwritten by a social contract.

The supply chain freezes The new “private sector profits at all costs” model which triumphed after 1979 handed all responsibility for new developments to drugs companies. Who have to make a profit. And there are no profits in antibiotic development. No new antibiotics.

Cut taxes and give us our Sony Walkmans The consumer culture of the 1980s demanded two things A) instant gratification of every wish B) the reduction of all impediments which might inconvenience this, such as a rational level of taxation. The consumers got their Sony Walkmans. They lost a healthy infrastructure of institutions that might have developed new antibiotics. We hope they still enjoy their Sony Walkmans.

One upmanship The suburban battles over who has the biggest car/kitchen/number of bedrooms/bathrooms spills over into the ferocious mutual jealousies for pride and status among the nations. Never mind if your country is poor, disease ridden cold and hungry. It showed that lot next door who’s The Daddy! The result is furious arms races involving colossal levels of expenditure which could have been better placed in scientific research. Like new antibiotics perhaps?

Blind Aggression Medical professionals have been known to live in fear of angry, aggressive patients who demand antibiotic treatments instantly, regardless of the nature of their malady The result is over prescription and the evolution of further resistant organisms.

Blind Greed The desire of most of humanity for huge take-aways of cheap greasy meats has lead to a reckless over use of antibiotics in factory farms. Such dense crowds of over nurtured animals are a perfect evolutionary cauldron for the next anti biotic resistant superbug. It’s just a matter of time and mathematics.

It isn’t Governments. It isn’t media tycoons. It isn’t Pharmaceutical companies. The blame lies with each and every one of us. For we are like heirs who have squandered one of the greatest inheritances ever. Time to take action.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jan/20/antimicrobial-resistance-antibiotic-resistant-bacterial-infections-deaths-lancet-study

#antibiotic resistance #superbugs #public health #health #research #medicine

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