A golden era of antibiotics shifted the leading causes of death away from infection to cancer and cardiovascular disease. At the moment, we can still treat most infections as only a few are resistant to what is currently the last line of antibiotics – the colistins. But history shows us this will change and colistin resistance is already growing in China and the United States.
While prizes are being awarded for new research to combat resistance, farmers are slammed for overuse of antibiotics in livestock, doctors chided for unnecessary prescriptions and pharmaceutical companies criticised for a lack of investment.
Meanwhile, new antibiotic discoveries are rare if not non-existent and exciting new methods aren’t seen by many as enough to avert doomsday. Some believe technology – and even a revivial of older treatments – might save us. Others have already laid out what we need to do now to save ourselves.
We aren’t in the post-antibiotic era yet, but what would the world be like if no antibiotics were available? We only have to go back 70 years, before the “golden era” of antibiotic discoveries of the 1940s to 1960s, to experience infectious disease as the predominant cause of human death. These diseases are still around and some are more virulent – complicated by multiple antibiotic resistances, which evolved through many factors, but mostly driven by our overuse.