Control Over Plague ‘Tenuous,’ ‘Transient’ Given Drug Resistance, History Of Disease

Project Syndicate: The Eternal Return of the Plague
Kyle Harper, professor at the University of Oklahoma and author

“…The plague in Madagascar today is an offshoot of what is known as the ‘third plague pandemic,’ a global dispersion of Yersinia pestis that radiated from China in the late nineteenth century. There still is no vaccine; while antibiotics are effective if administered early, the threat of antimicrobial resistance is real. That may be the deepest lesson from the long history of this scourge. Biological evolution is cunning and dangerous. Small mutations can alter a pathogen’s virulence or its efficiency of transmission, and evolution is relentless. We may have the upper hand over plague today, despite the headlines in East Africa. But our long history with the disease demonstrates that our control over it is tenuous, and likely to be transient — and that threats to public health anywhere are threats to public health everywhere” (11/15).