Diana Zuckerman has an important blog post on the member’s website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
As she points out, Congress has taken some action — and is considering more — to promote the development of new antibiotics (mainly by passing bills the pharmaceutical industry wants) but is doing little to discourage the misuse and overuse of existing antibiotics, which increasingly leads to antibiotic-resistant “super-bugs.” I hate to sound cynical, but one reason for that is that the industry benefits financially from that overuse.
So what do we need to do? See Zuckerman’s blog post for her take, but it agrees with things I’ve read in other credible sources. Here’s my own list (keeping in mind that I’m not a medical professional):
1. Convince patients to finish a full course of whatever antibiotic they’re prescribed. Too many of us stop as soon as we feel OK again, which can be well before the offending bacteria have been wiped out.
2. Convince other countries to put better controls on antibiotic use. In some countries there’s no prescription required, which obviously promotes overuse.
3. Convince doctors not to overprescribe antibiotics. They’re useless against viral infections and often not needed for mild bacterial ones.
4. Convince doctors to use older antibiotics unless there’s a real need for a new one. (This also saves patients money.)
5. Stop the routine use of antibiotics in livestock feed, where they’re employed to promoted rapid growth rather than to fight disease.
(A couple of these points are not on Zuckerman’s list but my guess is she’d agree with them.)