Most of us weren't alive nor old enough to remember when Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, but some of us benefited from its use to fight infections in the early 1940s. I remember receiving antibiotics over and over when I was young, mostly due to ear infections and upper respiratory diseases. They were pretty effective back then.
My first awareness of antibiotic-resistant germs was after my gallbladder ruptured. Of course I was put on antibiotic treatment after surgery. Problem was, I had taken quite a few rounds of antibiotics recently. There was a scary stretch in there when the antibiotics weren't effective and several others had to be tried before they hit on one that worked. More recently, I was tested for C diff (Clostridium difficile). Caregivers had to gown up and wear gloves and masks until the test came back negative. Apparently this is one of the newer, scarier resistant microbes, and it occurs due to a LACK of bacteria, similar to yeast infections. It spreads very easily by spores.
I was fascinated by the video below, illustrating a Harvard experiment to show bacteria's ability to overcome antibiotics, mutate, and thrive, even in increasingly hostile environments. We think we're pretty clever, coming up with tricks to fight nature. I'm sorry == I'm pretty sure nature is cleverer.
The FDA ruled just last week that soaps containing the antimicrobial triclosan can no longer be sold in the U.S. This because our clever use of antibiotic soaps has caused an outbreak of resistant bacteria that are deadlier than the ones we originally fought with the additives. Unfortunately, the ban is specific to the one antibiotic, and it doesn't apply to products that aren't soap. Dozens of other household items are made with the stuff, but they don't fall under FDA authority; they are regulated by the EPA (or my favorite Trumpism: the Department of Environmental).
Millions of lives have been saved since Fleming's discovery of penicillin. Childhood diseases have been reversed and four generations have lived to create and contribute and build. Organ transplants wouldn't exist without the antibiotic and all the related discoveries since. But there's a cost. More than 23,000 people die every year due to antibiotic-resistant infections, and those numbers are rising. Many folks have a natural fear of hospitals, and they may be on to something -- the harder hospitals try to eliminate disease-causing microbes, the stronger the microbes become.
I am a person of faith, but I also recognize that we are biological creatures sharing the planet with millions of other creatures. Many of them live in us, in a symbiotic relationship benefiting all. Many are parasites that can harm us, and our nature is to fight any threat. We should also take into consideration that we act like parasites on the planet, consuming resources and replacing them with pollution & damage, and causing extinction of other species.
If a species as a whole targeted mankind, we would fight back with every resource and innovation at our disposal. We think we would do this because we are smart. Not true. We would do this because the nature of life is to survive. All life. The more we can live in harmony with all other life forms on our planet, the closer we are to nature and the more likely we are to adapt, survive, and thrive.
Don't even get me started on Monsanto and Bayer.
Susie Snortum is passionate about improving society's compassion for meeting basic human needs -- food, shelter, clean water, and dignity.