A Portrait of the Post-Antibiotic Era

   11.21.13

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In keeping with today’s theme of “depressing ways the world could end,” Wired’s Maryn McKenna takes to Medium to paint a massively disturbing portrait of the post-antibiotic world that we seem to be hurtling toward at an alarming rate:

Medical procedures may involve a high risk of infections, but our everyday lives are pretty risky too. One of the first people to receive penicillin experimentally was a British policeman, Albert Alexander. He was so riddled with infection that his scalp oozed pus and one eye had to be removed. The source of his illness: scratching his face on a rosebush. (There was so little penicillin available that, though Alexander rallied at first, the drug ran out, and he died.)

Before antibiotics, five women died out of every 1,000 who gave birth. One out of nine people who got a skin infection died, even from something as simple as a scrape or an insect bite. Three out of ten people who contracted pneumonia died from it. Ear infections caused deafness; sore throats were followed by heart failure. In a post-antibiotic era, would you mess around with power tools? Let your kid climb a tree? Have another child?

If you’re not up for reading the entire, 4,000-word feature, you can get the gist of it from this Wired blog post of hers.

As the father of three little girls, this is pretty frightening. Here’s hoping that we’ll find some way to fund research that can stave this off, since Big Pharma has decided that weight loss pills, baldness treatments, and “erectile dysfunction” are a better bet than boring and short-lived antibiotics.

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