Failure of Antibiotics May Complicate the Population Explosion


Once upon a time you went to the hospital when you had a medical problem, and medical professionals used the means at their disposal: antibiotics, surgery, and other medical tools, to make you better.  Then antibiotics became almost a standard part of being in a hospital, used to protect the patient from the bad germs others had brought.  The germs who were better able to survive did exactly that, they survived.  After many generations had passed there were bacteria in the population almost impervious to the antibiotic.  Meanwhile stronger antibiotics were being developed, including broad spectrum antibiotics that kill most of the types of bacteria in the body, but this only opened the door for the bad bacteria to infect the patient and make them sick, possibly sicker than they were when they sought medical attention in the first place.

Today this problem is becoming increasingly common.  The usual scenario is that  someone goes to the hospital, is given antibiotics, picks up a resistant bacteria strain such as clostridium difficile (also known as C. Dif), and goes home with digestive problems that are nasty, extremely difficult to cure, and could cause the patient problems for life.  The patient could wind up much worse off than if they had not gone to the hospital at all.  Even worse, with enough exposure and coincident with an episode of taking antibiotics for some other problem, the patient’s family members could acquire C. Dif and have gastrointestinal problems of their own.  The result: C. Dif spreads through the population, already resistant to most antibiotics, until most people have it.  Then the economic effects start to become quietly evident: sick time at large and small employers begins to climb. Eventually the GDP could be negatively impacted.

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