One of the most significant discoveries in modern medicine famously happened by accident. Professor Alexander Fleming was cleaning up his laboratory and found a moldy petri dish that had previously been coated in bacteria. The mold had formed a ring of area free of the bacteria and just a decade later, penicillin became the world’s first antibiotic. Since that time, we as a society look with sadness and pity on the dark ages before the antibiotic. A simple infection—one that might not even be serious enough to warrant a day off of work—might have killed someone. However, according to the scholarly journal The Lancet, warns that without a focused, global political effort the life-saving days of antibiotic may be over.
Increasingly bacteria are becoming antibiotic resistant, due to a number of circumstances discussed throughout the issue. The increasing use of antibiotics to combat diseases that stem from unsanitary conditions where animals used for meat production are raised is one factor that has contributed to bacteria’s ability to adapt resistance to the drugs.
Also examined are the ways in which antibiotics are purchased and prescribed. In his 2007 documentary Sicko, Michael Moore highlights the ability of poor people in countries such as Mexico to purchase prescription drugs over-the-counter. However, another article in the journal highlights that this sort of unsupervised use can also lead to the development of bacteria that can resist the drugs. In a sense, antibiotics should be used only as a last resort in order to maximize their effectiveness.
Still for many hospitals, such as those in India, prescription companies offer bonuses to doctors who prescribe their medicine. A study from World Economic Forum shows that 98 percent of Chinese patients are being prescribed antibiotics, even when they are not needed. The conclusion is that global efforts to raise awareness of this issue and educate patients about proper antibiotic use are the only way we can ensure that Fleming’s accidental discovery remains relevant for generations to come.