Letter: Don't blame ills on antibiotics

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The Independent Online
Sir: To blame the use of antibiotics for the increase in diseases hitherto regarded as conquered is incredible ("The waning of the antibiotic age", 21 May). Many of the diseases mentioned declined significantly as a result of increased living standards before antibiotics were available.

In the former Soviet Union obtaining antibiotics was the main problem. Now they are obtainable it is at a price out of reach for ordinary people. The former elite never had to face this problem. Now they have become capitalists they still ignore it.

For ordinary Russian men, life expectancy has declined from 70 to 59 and for women from 75 to 73 since the mid 1970s. In the Asian former Soviet republics the situation is worse.

The main reason for this is poverty. The collapse of the health service has exacerbated the situation. Although never good it is now non-existent for many. The result has been cuts in immunisation programmes and prohibitive costs of treatment.

The overuse of antibiotics does have to be tackled but to cite this at the major problem and ignore increasing world poverty is perverse and lets world leaders off the hook yet again.


Research Assistant

Wellcome Unit for the

History of Medicine

University of Glasgow