In 1928 scottish biologist & pharmacologist Alexander Fleming placed some mould in a petri dish, & noticed a byproduct being produced. He would later discover that this substance had the ability to kill other forms of bacteria. It was the discovery of the first antibiotic which would be called penicillin.
Unfortunately it was only 12 years later that penicillin was isolated at any therapeutic level. They simply couldn’t make enough of it to use effectively on a patient.
In 1941, a police officer was gardening, & he scratched his cheek on a rose thorn. A few days later he was so infected that his eye had to be removed – & it seemed he would be another unfortunate to join the millions on the list of people to die from infection – from blood poisoning – it was something that was feared & untreatable. Until that point.
A team of doctors had managed to isolate enough penicillin to potentially treat this police officer. So they administered it. Within 24 hours his fever began to reduce, his appetite returned & he seemed to start healing. Because they had such small amounts of penicillin they would actually have to harvest more from his urine, & re-administer to him daily. By day 4 he was well on his way to recovery – but by day 5 when they ran out of penicillin – the police officer died.
In the following decade penicillin was used to cure, seemingly miraculously at the time, blood infections, sepsis, wounds & lesions that wouldn’t heal & more. It seemed that we had discovered a longevity tonic. In an age where people died young, & feared the dreadful humours that would enter the body & cause death, we had found an answer.
We would go on to discover & implement new antibiotic drugs across the medical industry – to life-saving effect. But we’d also go on to use them frivolously, irresponsibly even.
Many people don’t know that within 2 years of the widespread implementation of penicillin, there were already a significant number of bacterial infections becoming resistant to it. Sir Alexander Fleming actually predicted this way back in the 1930s…
Antibiotic resistance is the number one health threat we are facing throughout the world right now. And many of you wouldn’t even know about it.
Since then, we’ve seen numerous other antibiotics introduced into medicine…. & we’ve seen resistance develop to all of them.
And drug companies are now giving up on making new antibiotic drugs… because they’re saying it won’t be a profitable exercise due to antimicrobial resistance. So how serious is this issue? You’d think if it was that serious we’d be seeing some mega news coverage from the networks in town wouldn’t you? Do you hear anything? Not a peep.
According to the British Inquiry into Anti-Microbial Resistance, every year we are seeing 750,000 people per year die of antibiotic resistant infections.
According to this project, by 2050 if we do not correct this situation…there will be 10 million dying every year.. That’s almost half of Australia’s population.
Think about it… how often do we use antibiotics? C-sections, gastric surgeries, emergency medicine, bypasses…. all of it made impossible without antibiotics.
According to the experts, like the WHO, the over-use, the irresponsible way we’ve used antibiotics for the past 80 years as a crutch to lean upon for our preventable health ailments has resulted in us fast approaching a post anti-biotic era. What do we do?
Governments are trying to incentivise drug companies to make new pharmaceuticals….. are we trying to kid ourselves? How soon before those drugs, too, are made redundant. You see microbes are smart. They can actually speak to each other & they can conduct horizontal gene transfer which means they can lend & swap genes as they need to persist in any given environment – including an environment where antibiotics are present.
There are interesting times ahead in medicine. We are seeing bacteria being genetically engineered to attack cancer cells, new vaccinations are being invented & implemented very frequently, & throughout it all we are seeing the human being’s innate potential to self-heal & self-regulate being ignored.
Could the answer be, rather than try to invent new drugs, & come up with new treatments to ‘attack’ infections, to bolster the immune system of the patient? To prevent & reduce the need for bypasses, back, knee & gastric surgeries? This ultimately would mean a drastic shift in how we approach illness is required, & until we begin to appreciate the human body for it’s ability to self-heal & self-regulate, then we’ll continue to travel down the antibiotic resistance path.
Medicine can be an amazing intervention in life. Lord forbid if you get smashed up on the princess highway you’ll need ER as oppose to herbal treatment, infant survivability at birth is extremely high, poison treatment is extremely effective but when it comes to the management of chronic illness we are driving a system that can only fail as our population increases. We’re building more hospitals, we’re coming up with new drugs, we’re raising more money & having big cups of tea in the fight against cancer yet we’re not empowering individuals to be in control of their health by educating them on what it takes to be healthy!