The importance of antibiotics cannot be overstated. At any given time, they are used by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world to treat a wide range of different diseases and medical conditions. However, the end of their era may be closer than we ever though.
Before analyzing this “end” and the event that made scientists reach this conclusion, it is important to understand the way antibiotics work and why it would be impossible for them to help us forever in the first place.
When studied in a lab, bacteria can be easily killed by one of two ways. They can either be exposed to high temperature or come in contact with large quantities of alcohol. Unfortunately, none of these is an option when they are inside the human body. This is where antibiotics step in. They have offensive mechanisms that attack specific parts of bacteria destroying them and making the patient healthy again. Unfortunately, their effectiveness rate has been declining and, according to experts, there are cases where it has reached 0. But why is this happening?
People who remember school biology are familiar with the term “natural selection“. Generally speaking, it is a process that allows species to survive and adapt easily to environmental changes. This happens to every known organism, so bacteria also go through it. In the case of antibiotics, some bacteria that have a certain degree of immunity against the drug survive while the rest die. These resistant types, which are often referred to as superbugs, reproduce and create new bacteria that are equally or more resistant. Eventually, an antibiotic becomes useless since it can no longer combat the targeted bacteria.
The latest incident belonging to this scenario is the one of the Escherichia coli bacterium detected in the urine of a woman living in Pennsylvania of the United States of America. Sadly, the microorganism is showing signs of total resistance to all modern antibiotics that are meant to kill the bacterium.
Could this mean we are entering a new phase of medicine where antibiotics will no longer work? It is kind of hard to accept since we’ve been relying on them since the 1930s after penicillin was discovered. But for more than the past few years, medical experts predicted this day would come. Scientists are not yet positive on which new methods are going to replace them. The good thing is that there are more than a few possible candidates.