We’re Losing the War Against Bacteria, Here’s Why | NYT

We’re Losing the War Against Bacteria, Here’s Why | NYT

There once was a man
named Albert Alexander. He was a policeman — “[American accent] Hey.” — in England. “[British accent] Hello.” One day on patrol,
he cut his cheek — “Ouch!” — which led to a
terrible infection. See, this was back in 1941,
before patients had antibiotics. These were the days
when a little scratch could kill you. “Or you got an ear
infection and you died. A cat bite and you died.
Or you stepped on a stick and you died. All of a sudden, antibiotics
come along and bang.” The antibiotic era had begun. Soon a slow and painful death
became a seven-day course of antibiotics
and a $10 copay. And Albert? Albert was the first
patient in the world to receive the antibiotic —
penicillin. And it worked. “We just came up with a
lifesaving, life-extending drug, one of the
greatest developments in human history. Except not.” That’s Matt Richtel,
a science reporter for The New York Times. For the past year, Matt’s
been talking to health experts to find out if we
are reaching the end of the antibiotic era. Modern medicine depends
on the antibiotic. “And having used it so much,
we’re now putting it at risk. Is our fate sealed?” “First off, I don’t think
people respect bacteria enough.” This is Ellen Silbergeld,
one of the leading scientists studying
antibiotic resistance. “Bacteria rule the world. We are just a
platform for bacteria. Within the human body, there
are more bacterial cells than there are human cells. So we are, in fact,
mostly bacteria.” “Alexander Fleming —” the man who
discovered penicillin “— in his Nobel speech
said, hang on, be aware. When you start killing
this stuff off, it’s going to fight back.” “Did we pay any
attention to that? No.” “The C.D.C. got our attention
today with a warning about what it calls
‘nightmare bacteria.’” “These are bacteria that
are resistant to most, if not all, antibiotics.” When we take antibiotics
to kill infections, some bacteria survive. It used to be
they’d replicate, and eventually
resistance would grow. But now, they’re
way more efficient and share drug-resistant
genes among themselves. So every time we
take an antibiotic, we risk creating stronger,
more resistant bacteria. And stronger, more
resistant bacteria means less and less
effective antibiotics. And this is a problem because
we take lots of antibiotics. “Money gets made over
the sale of antibiotics.” Big money. Globally, the
antibiotics market is valued at $40 billion. And in the U.S., the C.D.C.
estimates that about 30 percent of all prescribed antibiotics
are not needed at all. That’s 47 million
excess prescriptions. And in many places
outside of the U.S., you don’t even need
a prescription. “You can walk into a pharmacy. A pharmacist will diagnose
you and give you antibiotics. I tend to think
of it as a story of Darwinian forces multiplied
by the pace and scale of global capitalism. In an interconnected world —
travel, import, export — we’re moving the
bugs with us.” “I can go to a meeting
in China or Vietnam or some place —” This is Lance Price,
the director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center. “I can become colonized
by untreatable E. coli. And I might not
have any symptoms. But you can get colonized. And you can become this
sort of long-term host.” So you could be healthy and
still spreading bad bacteria without even knowing it. “Drug-resistant bacteria have
never been able to travel the world as fast
as they do today.” And that’s just
part of the problem. “You should know
that about 80 percent of antibiotic production
in this country goes into agriculture.” “Why on earth did
somebody think putting antibiotics
in agriculture was a great idea?” “We’ve said, hey, look,
cram these animals together. Don’t worry too much
about hygiene or trying to keep
them healthy. Just give them antibiotics. And then in a couple weeks,
you’re going to have full-grown animals that
you can chop up and eat. Right? And you can make
money off of that.” “Nobody was making
the connection between feeding animals
antibiotics and the fact that the food
would be carrying drug-resistant bacteria.” So Ellen did a study. She compared different kinds
of store-bought chicken. And she found that poultry
raised with antibiotics had nine times as much
drug-resistant bacteria on it. “Now, let’s talk about
the vegetarians. I just want you to
understand, you’re not safe. You know all these
outbreaks that take place among the lettuce
and the things like that. Have you ever wondered
how that happened? It’s because animal manure
is used in raising crops. Organic agriculture lauds
the use of animal manure.” “Unless you’re just a
complete, ‘I’m a vegan, and I only hang
out with vegans, and I eat sterilized
vegetables,’ you know, it’s very likely
that you’re picking up the same bacteria.” Resistant bacteria seep
into the groundwater, fly off the back
of livestock trucks and hitch a ride home on
the hands of farm workers, all of which makes trying
to pinpoint exactly where resistant bacteria
is originating extremely difficult. And even when it seems
like there is a clear source, things still aren’t so simple. “No one wants to be seen
as a hub of an epidemic.” Say your grandmother
makes you a rump roast. And then that rump roast
makes you sick. Well, if you live in France,
or Ireland, or pretty much
anywhere in the E.U., packaged meat
has a tracking label. You can figure out
exactly what farm that meat came from. But in the U.S., not even the
top public health officials can do that. “Most countries
have animal ID laws. We don’t.” Pat Basu, former
chief veterinarian for the U.S.D.A.’s Food Safety
and Inspection Service, basically one of the top
veterinarians in the country. “Let me start
at the beginning. We got a case where we
had resistant bacteria causing illness in people. There were sick people
that C.D.C. identified.” “More than 50 people
in eight counties have gotten an unusual
strain of salmonella linked to pork.” “This is not your grandmother’s
pathogen anymore. This is a new bug.” Health officials traced
the outbreak back to the slaughterhouse
and identified six potential farms
where the outbreak could have come from. But then the
investigation shut down. “The individual farmers
have to agree voluntarily to share the data with these
investigators who go out. We couldn’t go
any further back. It was a dead end.” 192 people sick,
30 hospitalizations and zero access for health officials
to investigate the farms. “The secrecy is maintained
because there are big economic
forces behind it. Farms are scared
of losing their ability to get antibiotics. Hospitals are scared
of driving away patients.” “Well, as a physician,
I do get very upset. I get very upset, as a
patient, that information is being withheld.” This is Kevin Kavanagh,
a doctor and a consumer advocate
for patients. “Drug-resistant bacteria
is a huge problem. If it occurs at a
restaurant, if it occurs in a cruise ship, you know about
this immediately —” “A salmonella outbreak —” “within days or hours of
an outbreak occurring.” “This morning,
Chipotle is keeping dozens of its restaurants in the
Pacific Northwest closed —” “But yet, in a hospital,
it can take you months or even over
a year until this data appears on a
governmental website or reported by the C.D.C.” In the U.S., hospitals
are under no obligation to inform the public when a
bacterial outbreak occurs. “Defend and deny. They are very concerned about the short-term
economic benefits, rather than looking
at long-term problems.” “There’s always this response
like, well, but there’s still a drug, right? Like, this isn’t the end.” Remember Albert Alexander? — “Hello. Ouch!” — the first patient to
be given penicillin? Well, his story
didn’t end there. Five days after he
started recovering, the hospital ran out
of the new drug, and Mr. Alexander died. Today, we don’t have to
worry about antibiotics running out. We have to worry about
using them so much that they stop working altogether. “— want to know why a metro
health department didn’t shut down a restaurant —” “It’s a very
resistant bacteria —” “We really need to change
the way we use antibiotics. Because the way
we use antibiotics is destroying them.” “It’s putting at risk
the entire system of care that we depend on for
lengthening our lives and improving the
quality of our lives.” The British government
commissioned a study which predicted a
worst case scenario where more people will die
by 2050 of these infections than will die of cancer. “That’s a generation
from now.” “It takes 10 years to
identify, develop, test and bring to market
a new antibiotic. And it takes a
billion dollars.” “This is a common
issue for humanity.” “Very similar to
global warming.” “You can’t control it
as a single company. You can’t control this
as a single government.” And because the bacteria
are now working together so efficiently — “Unless the world acts
consistently together, it doesn’t make a difference.”

100 Replies to “We’re Losing the War Against Bacteria, Here’s Why | NYT”

  1. Why aren’t these the people helping to make global policy changes? We need to start asking people who truly understand the problem, for solutions.

  2. Here's Why; the rich and powerful dont love you. They pay the smart people not to love you. Then, we the poor, cannot afford to love you.

  3. I’ve never been a big anti-biotic person per my parenting. If I ever got a cut, or a scratch, a bit of warm water, soap and a bandaid was all I was given. I’ve only taken them for ear or skin infections or more serious things.

    But I do eat a lot of animal products so that’s a rip.

  4. one word- bacteriophases, there are three times more of them than every other organism on earth, including bacteria.

  5. I love scare mongering. bacteria outnumber humans quintillions to one, the trillion you carry around with you every day are a drop in the bucket. bacteria will always win in the end.

  6. The Democrat Bacteria that worked together as society got stronger.
    The selfish keep-to-yourself Repub-Bacteria died out.

  7. I don't know about America but in the UK we have warnings all over GPs (clinics) to warn us of the dangers and to tell people that doctors are helping you by not giving you antibiotics immediately

  8. All doctors can do is offer the solutions they know. I got a fairly decent immune system (knock on wood), so I usually reject the offer. That said, I've caved a few times. One time was for a surgery… I didn't realize I'd wake up to an antibiotic IV drip just to PREVENT an infection I didn't have. I could only protest as much as my morphine addled brain would allow, which was probably just a few sad murmurs. "No Morphib, antibiof… My hands are amazing!"

  9. So we're going to be wiped out either by bacteria or climate change, it's just a matter of which one is faster.
    Thanks to American hypercapitalism.

  10. Welp I think I’m going to cry myself to sleep now knowing that my imminent doom can come at any moment thanks to antibiotics

    And that the us doesn’t care about the future for millennials thanks USA you selfish fricks

  11. The people in power knew about antibiotic connection decades ago for example the Jewel grocery milk salmonella poisoning in 1985. The problem was created by the farmers & drug industry by feeding antibiotics to cows because farmers kept cats in the silos that held grain feed for the cows which the cats kept mice/rats at bay. The cats peed on the grain so farmers fed cattle antibiotics to ward off infection but at the same time created a super virus which was passed on into the milk they made. Jewel had two or more brands of milk with one costing .20-.30 gal more but because they were running short on one of the brands they reroute the cheaper milk to the more expensive brand to complete production and that's why people got infected on both brands. Soooo, what's been done to change/improve this ? NOTHING !

  12. people nowadays always rush for pills and antibiotics and this and that for quick fix, everything will adapt eventually and that include bacteria

  13. Eat alkaline foods, bacteria flourish best in an acidic environment. Non alkaline foods are meat, fish, milk, coffee, sugar, etc. Minimize these foods to 20% of your total diet. Some are light acidic, some are high acidic.

  14. As a nurse in an urgent care facility I am shocked at how many patients ask specifically for antibiotics. They would come in with simple colds, sore throats and variety of common ailments. When we did specific tests and ruled out infections like strep they still insisted that the doctor prescribe some type of antibiotics. We tried to educate them about the difference in viruses vs an infection but they still threw a fit if they didn't get an antibiotics. It sorta got to the point that doctors would just go ahead and give in to patients demands for antibiotics.

  15. My doctor doesnt believe this is a big problem when I brought it up. She said there will be new antibiotics to fight resistance.

  16. I am 11 years old……………… now I know I may die from bacteria and I can do nothing about it except die thanks YouTube for leading me here

  17. ffs man.. we learned this as kids and im over 40 now..
    wake up america.
    i know youre a bit slow.. thinking its still the wild west where people need to carry arms and stuff , but try thinking further than the wallet.

  18. At this point,we should just prevent being infected all together,that’s why vaccines exist,but anti-vax people also exist

  19. What they are saying here ….. is Sooooooo scary, because it 1000% REAL !!!!! ….. this is some real stuff here.

  20. Human is not wired for thinking a long time prevention. We're always waiting for large plagues or disasters to happen rather than preparing for prevention and that will cause our downfall as species.

  21. how can we, as patients, get doctors, who are overwhelmed & clobbered day in & day out with far more patients than they can honestly safely see & still provide adequate medical care to, to say, perform a culture & sensitivity test first instead of "throwing the big guns" at suspect serious infections?

    i had the exact scenario occur to me in the past year, & thankfully, the treatment worked, but i felt guilty knowing there may have been an antibiotic therapy more appropriate for whatever infection i had than the all-inclusive one provided to me?

    insurance companies likely don't want to pay for these additional diagnostic tests, which is a huge hindrance, & i'm sure most people wanna get better ASAP, regardless of the potential consequences. argh… it's a very frustrating situation all around.

  22. I’m sure that I can help by telling people I eat grass and by not protecting my children with vaccines and immunizations.

  23. In serious antibiotics overuse cases some people rush to clinics for doses of antibiotics when very mild symtoms of cold are just beginning to show up because they do not like the feeling of feeling sick.

  24. The problem are the doctors, who at the very first sign of anything prescribe antibiotics, when most of the time its not necessary and will make things worse

  25. 1:36 wahahaahah u that stupid. we are definitely not mostly bacteria. in an 80kg human there are living about 2kg off bacteria

  26. That's sad because i actually wanted go study to the US and potentially move and have job there doesn't mean that the EU doesn't inject their food it's just that this video made me even more paranoid about what i'm eating, all i can think for the last 3 straight days was about this video and how growing your own food and animals could be beneficial for your health..

  27. Short term benefits has always been the thorn in American business, society, politics, environment, the public debt….please stop blaming the politicians and business executives. We Americans as a whole are always looking for the easy fix: taking pills instead of making life style changes and not confronting the problem head on, but postponing until tomorrow. Don’t expect politicians to change if you are not willing to change.

  28. Wait am I the only one sitting in my room wondering if I, a millennial, am going to experience the end of the world as we know it? I’m waiting for the apocalypse to happen.

  29. The part around 5:20, WHY DOESN´t Amercia have these things that every country in the world have??? RigHt it´s america

  30. Bacteria = Leftism. We've tried everything to rid the world of Leftism, yet it keeps sneaking back to devastate the human race. Thanks for the video!

  31. Em the first patient the policeman actually died as the hospital never had enough of the newly discovered penicillin stocked up, they tried straining his urine to recycle the agent but alas he regressed back to his infection and died.

  32. Serious question, if I make an effort to reduce my intake of antibiotics for the rest of my life, but society as a whole continues to take antibiotics for meds and agriculture, does that mean I can easily die from future super bacteria?

    In short, with respect to long term health is it better for me to avoid antibiotics or no?

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