A pillar of medical treatment is under threat

REUTERS | Celine Gounder

When you’re sick, you expect the medicine a doctor gives you to work. But the effectiveness of one of the most important types of drugs — antibiotics — is under threat.

In the United States alone, there are 2 million antibiotic resistant infections causing 23,000 deaths each year. You say that you never get sick, so this isn’t your problem. But what if I told you that antibiotics make modern medicine possible, including surgery, cancer treatment and organ transplants? Half of men and a third of women will get cancer in their lifetimes. Many treatments for cancer weaken the immune system, putting you at risk for infection.

We have an epidemic of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes in this country; many of those affected will eventually need dialysis and kidney transplants. When you get an organ transplant, you need to take medications that weaken your immune system so your body doesn’t reject the organ. And this puts you at increased risk of infection. Continue reading