Cornucopia’s Take: The race to overpower bacteria has created suberbugs and encouraged over-prescription of drugs to patients and huge overuse in factory farm agriculture. This cautionary history lesson may help us better understand the way, and the need, to protect this critical human health tool.
The surprising history of the war on superbugs — and what it means for the world today
by Carl Zimmer
We may come to the end of antibiotics. We may run clean out of effective ammunition, and then how the bacteria and moulds will lord it.”
If you had to guess where those words came from, you might well say a recent news segment on TV, or perhaps an op-ed published by a frantic doctor. After all, these days there’s a lot of talk about our antibiotic resistance crisis. Bacteria that have evolved to withstand antibiotics kill 700,000 people each year, and ever more powerful strains are spreading around the world. Researchers are worried that we will enter a post-antibiotic age, in which we are infected by bacteria that can defeat every drug medicine has to offer. Next week, the United Nations will convene a high-level meeting to coordinate the global fight against these invisible enemies.
But perhaps you noticed something odd about those words above. They have a strangely old-fashioned sound. In fact, they were uttered back in 1954, by a British physician named Lindsey W. Batten.