The End of Antibiotics?

Catching a cold or the flu seems to be quite common around this time of year and it’s no shocker, seeing as everyone experiences a great deal of stress and sleep deprivation during midterms.  I remember in my first year, I managed to sustain a cold for about a month and a half because I didn’t allow myself to sleep enough for my immune system to recover and fight the bug.  Even after two rounds of antibiotics, my cold seemed to linger, unwilling to relinquish its hold on my body while my immune system made a futile attempt to shoo the virus away.

I read an article recently about an official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named Dr Arjun Srinivasan, who claims that antibiotics are reaching the end of their efficacy due to the rise of new antibiotic-resistant superbugs.  As much as I would love to disbelieve that we are facing a new generation of pathogens, my failed antibiotic treatments makes it harder for me to dispute the reality that we may no longer be safe from the infections we were once able to cure easily before.

Part of the problem, according to Dr Srinivasan, is that we have become so reliant on antibiotics, that we have not allowed our immune systems to develop to effectively fight off pathogens on our own.  Bacteria are evolving ways to survive our current antibiotics and doctors are seeing an increasing amount of infections in schools and gyms that were once limited to hospital environments, as well as prolonged infections that were once easily treatable five years ago.

Another issue is that pharmaceutical companies have neglected to develop more sophisticated and novel antibiotics to keep up with increasing bacterial resistance.  Although, it’s no wonder that drug companies are hesitant to develop new drugs, as many often fail the various stages of testing, there is not much money to be made in this field and the cost to create a new one is now, on average, $5 billion… not exactly the pocket change people are willing to fork up every day.

It will be a very difficult problem to overcome in the next few years, especially because antibiotics have played an integral role for the success of organ transplants, chemotherapy, stem cell and bone marrow transplants; procedures that weaken the immune system and make patients susceptible to infections.  Perhaps the best way to fight off infection is to let it run its course, get lots of sleep and allow our immune systems to strengthen naturally against these superbugs.  The next time I get sick, I think I will reach for the Echinacea, vitamin C and ginger root before resorting to not-so-helpful antibiotics.

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