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When considering the Antibiotics Resistance Crisis, should we prioritize the present or the future?

What you need to know

What actually is the antibiotics resistance crisis? 

The simplest explanation would be when an illness which is commonly treated by antibiotics beings to develop resistance to that drug, this making the drug less effective. An illness can mutate and develop resistances to antibiotics for numerous reasons. The most common reasons we see in everyday society is that antibiotics are being misused and abused. Rather than focusing on the science of resistance development, this page will focus on the bioethical issues brought up by the ever changing world of antibiotics resistance. 

If you are intrested in learning a bit more about the science you can follow one of these links to get a general overview of the issue along with explanation of the development. Resource 1: NCBI Resource 2: RxList

To put how pressing the situation is into context, this quote issued on the World Health Organization’s website in 2014 sums it up quite well: “‘Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill,’ says Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security. ‘Effective antibiotics have been one of the pillars allowing us to live longer, live healthier, and benefit from modern medicine. Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods and the implications will be devastating.'”

This graphic outlines how antibiotics have been developed through history, and when antibiotic resistance develops and is recognized by the medical community.
This super interesting video from Harvard University, it should give you a pretty clear idea of what antibiotics resistance actually looks like, as well as the scope of potential resistance.

So now that we know what the antibiotics resistance crisis actually is, why do we care? Why does this matter? Antibiotics are saving lives right? This is likely the sentiments of the everyday citizen, until, they see one very daunting number. 10,000,000. Ten millon is the number of people that numerous studies predict will die annually from antimicrobial resistance if we do not change the way we use antibiotics. 

Well, if that many people are going to die in the future, why do we keep using antibiotics? If we are being put in more danger, what’s the point? Why is something so harmful so prevalent in the medical system? Well, think of the grandma with a weakned immune system who contracts an infection, or what about the cancer patient who has a comprimised immune system and can’t fight infections on their own?  

These sentiments are what craft the two main perspectives on this issue: those that prioritze the future, and those who prioritze the present. Each side with valid arguments, and each with different pitfalls. Please follow this link to a chart on how the different principles of bioethics factor into the two different perspecitves. 

My response: what we can do

This page wasn’t intended to try and encourage to removal of antiobiotics or create fear surrounding them, rather, I hope this bring to light an issue that may cause very similar problems to COVID-19 in the future. I believe that the best course of action moving forward would be to be much more stringent when prescribing antibiotics. Making sure antibiotics are absolutely necessary in any situation gives the potential for antibiotics to continue to protect individuals in the present day, while not completely compromising the future uses of antibiotics.

How can you get involved?

Brainstorm some ideas! In the comments below leave your thoughts on what the best course of action moving forward is. In addition, consider the principles of bioethics, and the pros and cons of your decison, what do you think is the biggest downside to your opinion? I would also love to hear some feedback in the comments if you have any! You can find my works cited here.

Thank you for taking the time to read through my project!

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COMMENTS: 8
  1. April 24, 2020 by Bella Steiner

    Hi Jeremy! Awesome presentation. I hadn’t given much thought to this crisis but after reading your project I will definitely be giving it more thought in the future. I think the point you brought up about being more stringent with our usage of antibiotics is something the medical community and users of these drugs should be aware of. I do see a potential downside here in which denying the use of antibiotics could cause a rise up for many people who might feel like they are in dire need. However, if we did begin to lessen our use of antibiotics where possible, in the long run, this could most definitely help to combat an oncoming antibiotics resistance crisis on a large scale.

  2. April 24, 2020 by Natassia Wong

    Wow, this project was really well articulated and put-together! I think it’s super important that you called attention to the issue surrounding what happens when our healthcare practices become restricted. I do wonder if we chose to focus on the future if that would eventually end up having the same result that focusing on the present would have, just years down the road?

  3. April 24, 2020 by HANNAH

    Hi Jeremy, I really liked your project! I think you did a great job and tackling and explaining a very controversial subject. I agree with you in the way that the best way to move forward would be not to stop prescribing antibiotics, but just to make sure the medical community is very cautious about when and when not to prescribe them and the appropriate dose. Overall great job and way to go on this project!

  4. April 24, 2020 by Noah

    This project was very interesting and definitely brings more attention to this crisis that many are not aware of. As my parents both work within places where antibiotics could be given, I’m very fascinated by how these antibiotics are affecting those who use them. Also, I’m questioning my immune system because I have taken antibiotics before. I agree that the best way is to only use antibiotics when they are absolutely needed. In general, this was very useful in helping me understand this crisis and what our future could hold.

  5. April 25, 2020 by Annabelle Johnson

    Hello Jeremy! Your presentation instantly intrigued me because I took an Infection Disease and Epidemiology class last semester! I think that you pose a very important question for the future of bacterial medicine. I agree with your response that in order to help the crisis antibiotics need to have stricter guidelines. Currently I am on Amoxicillin/Clavulanic acid because I have a sinus infection and the label is not very informative on how important it is to take all of the pills even if you feel better. I think that their needs to be more awareness regarding the crisis and how deadly it could actually result in. Question… did you do any research on the future of Phage therapy (using viruses that aren’t harmful to humans to kill bacterial infections?)

  6. April 25, 2020 by Alessandra

    Hi Jeremy! Your presentation is amazing and it really caught my attention. I think you bring up a great point that some people might start to fear antibiotics after hearing about the resistance problem. It is important to not lose complete trust in antibiotics, but it is also imperative that we find a solution in the near future. I would ask if there is harm to taking antibiotics for a cold? Is there a limit?

  7. April 25, 2020 by Jenna

    Hey Jeremy, I really liked this presentation and I think antibiotic resistance could become a serious threat in the future. I think the best course of action moving forward is to prioritize the importance of this topic to the public.

  8. April 27, 2020 by jackson gaber

    hi Jeremy, i haven’t ever thought about antibiotics in any way but after reading everything that you have written i definitely think it will be a heated topic in the future. 10,000,000 is a very scary number that would be an absolute catastrophic reality. How much becomes too much?

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