Bacteria have evolved over time, leaving us worried for the next bacterial pandemic after COVID-19. Studies show that secondary bacterial infection of the lungs was responsible for 90% of the deaths of the Spanish flu of 1918. Now, cases of patients affected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are rising sharply. In these testing times, COVID-19 infected patients are left vulnerable to various kinds of pathogens. A report by the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of 2019 cites that 2.8 million Americans become infected with resistant bacteria each year, 35,000 of whom die from their infections. Bacteria resistance occurs when we improperly take antibiotics. Therefore, bacteria develop resistance mechanisms by using instructions provided by their DNA.
An assistant professor in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences of Northeastern University, Betsy Hirsch shows unaddressed concerns regarding the production of antibiotics. A lot of money, time, and experiments result in the invention or discovery of one new medicine. So, considering the rate at which bacteria are developing resistance and infecting people, the future of the acute shortage of antibiotics is very near. Hirsch mentions that companies invest even less in antibiotics because they are regarded as short-course therapies.
It is even more difficult a process for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the medical use of any new drug. For instance, in the past ten years, only six antibiotics have been approved by the FDA. The report by CDC also categorises bacteria into one of three “threat level” categories: urgent, serious, and concerning. Hirsch highlights that without antibiotics, modern medical advances, like organ transplants and cancer therapies, will cease to exist. Ultimately, death rates will go higher because patients are vulnerable to infections after complex treatments.
Antibiotics are the backbone of medicine and healing. We may not win the war against microbes like bacteria, but we would be fools not to take caution. We are harming ourselves by undermining the adversities the absence of these crucial drug type will cause. Hirsch stresses that governments should beware the public and preach the correct use of antibiotics. Nations should be liberal and generous in spending sufficient for the development of new drugs and antibiotics.