This 14-minute TED talk by Ramanan Laxminarayan discusses the history, the challenges, and the squandering of antibiotic use, beginning with the story of penicillin.
“To save a few pennies” for our meat, we’ve used antibiotics sub-clinically for growth-promotion, not for treatment.
Now, bacterial resistance has become common.
Included in the talk is a stunning must-see U.S. map showing the progression of Carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumannii across the states from 1999 to 2012.
“we stand at a cross-roads”
Every time an individual misuses an antibiotic, it affects humanity as a whole, which is “a problem of the commons”. Laxminarayan describes this as a problem of co-evolution, and compares it to using oil appropriately – related to climate change. He suggests an antibiotic tax just like people have suggested emissions taxes.
The newer antibiotics are becoming much more expensive, too. He tells us that this newer higher price is a signal that we need to practice conservation of antibiotics, just as high priced gasoline signals to us that we need to switch to methods that conserve gasoline. He mentions newer avenues and investments in antibiotic technologies, but says that these need to be balanced by investing in the proper use of antibiotics.
Because of resistance to our treatments across quite a number of areas to technologies we’ve only had for the past 80 to 100 years,
“essentially in a blink, we have squandered our ability to control”
because we have not recognized that actual selection and evolution was going to find a way to get back and we need to completely rethink how we’re going to use measures to control biological organisms … and we need to start thinking about them as natural resources … and change how we do business.