Antibiotics Overuse

Sometimes problems seem insoluble, that does not mean they are. We have been told about a coming apocalypse due to many people no longer responding to antibiotics. At least 700,000 people a year die from drug-resistant infections. Antibiotics have been overused not only with humans but with cattle, because some time back it was thought that giving them to cattle would make them grow faster. The consequence is that as those antibiotics affect the whole animal, and in turn the meat we eat, we end up ingesting more antibiotics than we realized. Now several things have shown that when used together they make a difference. It started with an experiment by a USC psychology professor and because the results were so positive, they are now being applied more generally. They got doctors to prescribe antibiotics more judiciously. They also sent their patients letters informing them of the need to take antibiotics more carefully. The letter was posted on the walls of the doctor’s office. Then they used a ranking system, ranking doctors on how many antibiotics they were prescribing. And too they set up computer alerts for those doctors prescribing too much. When all these things were tried together the number of antibiotics prescribed was greatly reduced. It is a protocol now being used not only in many parts of the US but also in other countries. But the use of antibiotics on animals and how those antibiotics trickle down the food chain is an even bigger problem, partly because not using antibiotics involves taking care of cattle in a totally different way. But experiments in the Netherlands have been successful. Another part of the solution researchers say will come as they learn more about bacteria.
There’s something heartening about knowing difficult problems are not as insoluble as they appear, that solutions are being worked on—for whatever creativity was and is involved in tackling the problem of antibiotics, lets us know other difficult problems can hopefully also be tackled.