Rising Plague

The author of a new book on the antibiotic resistance crisis entreats scientific and lay communities for help in the quest for new weapons

Brad Spellberg
Aug 26, 2009
How do you look the family members of a critically ill patient in the eyes and tell them that their loved one is going to die because there are no drugs left to treat their illness? I'm an infectious diseases specialist. I'm not supposed to have to bear such bad news to patients or their families. I expect to cure my patients' infections, and their families and friends hope that I can. It's been that way ever since the 1940s, when penicillin burst onto the scene. But this is the 21st century, and things are different now.
The discovery of antibiotics in the mid 20th century was nothing less than a revolution in public health and medicine. It was a revolution as significant to human civilization as the discoveries of Isaac Newton or Thomas Edison's first light bulb. Physicians trained in the era immediately preceding the dawn of antibiotics learned...
"...with today's [antibiotics] it is possible to place in the hands of a barefoot, nonliterate villager more real power to affect the outcome of a critically ill [patient] than could have been exerted by the most highly trained urban physicians of twenty-five years ago."

-- From W. McDermott, et al. "Introducing modern medicine in a Najavo community." Science, 131:197-205, 1960.




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