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Antibiotic resistance: supply, demand and economics of bacterial infection

Posted Jun 14 2011 5:01pm

If there were ever a case for maintaining a healthy, balanced immune system and staying away from antibiotic overuse, a recent piece in The Atlantic is it and should send everyone scrambling to get as healthy as humanly–or superhumanly–as possible.

Imagine a world years from now where life expectancy declines dramatically, and huge portions of health care dollars are spent fighting infections. That’s the scenario painted by Megan McArdle, writer for The Atlantic, in her recent piece, “How Super Bugs Will Affect Our Health Care Costs.”

The charts pictured here were in the story as well, and shows the percentage increase in antibiotic-resistant infections in the U.S. over the past 30 years. The lower chart shows in the decrease in new antibiotics coming onto the market in roughly the same time period. As the writer states, you do NOT want to see those trends moving away from each other.

As doctors prescribe fewer antibiotics to try to slow down resistant strains of germs, that means less revenue potential for pharma companies, which means fewer investment dollars directed to antibiotics.

McArdle presents a list of essential medical procedures performed today because effective antibiotics are available. Without effective antibiotics, the picture gets grim.

Write McArdle:  ”The superbugs have not only gotten bad fast–from “not really an issue” in 1980 to a major problem today–but they seem to be getting badder faster, as they merrily borrow resistance-conferring genes from each other.  Researchers now say they’re seeing resistance show up in the lab, before they even put the stuff into people.”

Stay healthy, people. Stay healthy.

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