Antibiotic abuse is on track to kill more people than cancer and diabetes. Can food help?
England’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies recently made headlines around the world when she again warned of an impending “post-antibiotic apocalypse.” Sounding no less disastrous, the World Health Organization has said that we’re “heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which many common infections will no longer have a cure and [will] once again kill unabated.” How have we arrived here? And how can we protect ourselves while researchers race to find alternatives to antibiotics and new classes of bacteria-busting drugs?
For nearly a century, antibiotics have been overprescribed, under-regulated and misunderstood. Because of all the good they have done treating infectious diseases around the world, we, as doctors and as a society at-large, became excessively reliant on them to treat everything from acne to tuberculosis, pneumonia to urinary tract infections (UTIs) to gonorrhea. Antibiotics are also widely used for preterm babies and to support the immune system before and after surgeries, cancer treatments and organ transplants. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is nothing new—the father of antibiotics, Sir Walter Fleming, even warned of it in his Nobel Prize winner’s lecture—but it is accelerating. And while scientists were once constantly introducing new antibiotics to replace the ineffective ones, we are now decades behind in discovering and deploying new antibiotics.
In the meantime, more deadly bacteria grow resistant to the available antibiotics. “Nightmare bacteria” or “superbugs” have emerged, with a major report by economist Jim O’ Continue reading