David McAdams on a post-antibiotic world

David McAdams on a post-antibiotic world


[MUSIC] Let’s look at the first drug used
to treat human disease: penicillin. Here we have a sign: “Penicillin cures gonorrhea in
four hours.” Okay. That was the 1940s. How could it do that? Because it killed the bacteria
that caused gonorrhea. Okay. Bacteria that it kills, we call susceptible. Those are susceptible
bacteria. But there were some bacteria causing gonorrhea that it didn’t kill. Those we call
resistant. Okay. So that’s going-those words are going to come up a lot in this talk.
So we give everyone penicillin. It kills the susceptible ones, but the resistant ones grow,
until the point that people still get gonorrhea, but now penicillin doesn’t work anymore. That
same story has been playing out for every single drug we’ve ever discovered. Okay. And
that’s why, now, there are diseases that can resist them all. Okay. And it’s conventional
wisdom, in the medical community, actually, that antibiotic resistance is inevitable,
that it’s just a matter of time until drugs won’t work. So that even the Director General
of the World Health Organization regularly speaks of what she calls a “post-antibiotic
future,” okay, where drugs won’t work. In this future, she says, things as common
as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill, because we won’t be
able to control those infections. Moreover, diseases that are now extremely well controlled,
like tuberculosis in the United States, which used to be the number two killer-actually,
it would go between number one and two back then-now, it doesn’t even make the top 100.
But we don’t have an effective vaccine against tuberculosis. Once we don’t have drugs to
treat it, it may come back.

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