The Apocalypse Is Open Us, Bacteria Develop Shareable Pan-resistance
Forget climate change, forget wars over religions and territory, a bigger and far scarier problem has reached a level where it will change the future beyond recognition.
Anti-biotic resistance has been a problem that has been getting bigger and bigger for years and whilst those who work in the health care community are aware and have been trying to minimise its effects for decades, the activities of the wider communities have taken us to the brink of a precipice from which we can't reverse.
Misuse of antibiotics - low level doses given by the farming industry to animals to promote growth, uncontrolled distribution to patients by GPs, and failure to complete prescribed courses by patients themselves - have driven the development of Superbugs. Bacteria that are able to resist the effects of some antibiotics.
Since the discovery of penicillin there has been an escalating war between pharmaceuticals and bacteria. When a new antibiotic is discovered a small number of bacteria aren't killed by the new drug and develop resistance to its effects. It passes this resistance down through generations and eventually this becomes widespread.
In the early days this resistance took decades to develop. However with the rise in the misuse of the antibiotics and the greater mobility of humanity that lag has been reducing. Previously there was sufficient time for new antibiotics to be developed to replace the outdated ones. That hasn't been the case for a while.
In fact it a new antibiotic becomes ineffective so rapidly that Pharmaceutical companies can no longer recoup their research investment. As a result no new antibiotics have been discovered since 1987.
The news that the antibiotic of last resort - colistin - is now no longer effective should be fundamentally terrifying. That this is the case thanks to its continued use in farming is infuriating. And the news that this new resistance can be passed between bacteria types means that we now have bacteria that are pan-resistant: they cannot be treated by any medicine we know today.
How does this affect you? The loss of antibiotics means that more and more operations will be fatal due to post-surgery infections. Cancer therapies, heavily reliant on antibiotics would become more deadly than the growths they seek to control. Complications in childbirth will be fatal for mother and infant. And even seemingly minor cuts and scrapes will lead to amputations and deaths.
Healthcare effectiveness will have regressed to the 19th Century.
Organisations are predicting that 11 million people a year could die from infections alone. That's higher than the number of people who died annually in World War 1 or 2.
What can be done about it? Governments need to move quickly. Firstly to prevent the misuse of antibiotics, particularly in the farming industry. Secondly by funding research into new antibiotics which might replace colistin and thirdly by supporting the development of technologies that might provide a drug-free way to kill these infections.
Unfortunately the time to do this has passed. Action taken now might minimise the global effects of a pandemic to which we currently have no answer.