Doctors have been warning for decades about the growth of antibiotic resistance and the dangers of overusing the drugs, yet the world been deaf to their entreaties.
Science is partly to blame. Once, new antibiotics were being discovered as fast as bacteria evolved resistance. We were keeping pace. No longer. The cost of developing new antibiotics and the speed with which bugs find ways around them have made the process prohibitive.
The years in which we could rely on new drugs to replace the old bred complacency. Patients demanded them, and GPs prescribed them because it looked as though they were doing something for their patient. In most cases the drugs did nothing – the symptoms were caused by a virus. But there was always the chance of a bacterial infection, however small, which could justify the prescription.
We became used to antibiotics – they were a cure-all. Now the cure-all is in danger of becoming a cure-nothing because we cannot change our habits.
Modifying our use of antibiotics will tough – but our health and that of future generations depends on it.