Without Action To Curb Antibiotic Resistance, Some Diseases May Once Again Become Untreatable

In this Atlantic Magazine opinion piece, Megan McArdle, senior editor at the Atlantic, echoes a warning by the FDA issued in 2001 which stated, “Unless antibiotic resistance problems are detected as they emerge, and actions are taken to contain them, the world could be faced with previously treatable diseases that have again become untreatable, as in the days before antibiotics were developed.”

Providing a brief history of the development of antibiotics to fight tuberculosis and the recent emergence of bacterial resistance to a variety of antibiotics, McArdle examines potential strategies to combat drug resistance and concludes that without doing so, “we could end up in a world where the risk of infection curtails life-enhancing surgeries such as hip and knee replacements; where organ transplants, which require suppressing the recipient’s immune system, become too risky to justify their cost; or even where pneumonia, which used to kill most of its victims over the age of 60, once again becomes ‘the old man’s friend'” (October 2011).