Maryn McKenna says that “After 85 years, antibiotics are growing impotent. So what will medicine, agriculture and everyday life look like if we lose these drugs entirely?”, writing at Food & Environment Reporting Network:
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Predictions that we might sacrifice the antibiotic miracle have been around almost as long as the drugs themselves. Battlefield casualties got the first non-experimental doses of penicillin in 1943, quickly saving soldiers who had been close to death. But just two years later, the drug’s discoverer Sir Alexander Fleming warned that its benefit might not last. Accepting the 1945 Nobel Prize in Medicine, he said:
“It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them… There is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.”
As a biologist, Fleming knew that evolution was inevitable: sooner or later, bacteria would develop defenses against the compounds the nascent pharmaceutical industry was aiming at them.