Even the prospect of a new generation of antibiotics must be a cause for celebration.
The prospect of untreatable superbugs adding to the chaos already undermining our health system is one of the nightmares of the Zeitgeist. That this possibility, however slim, has been largely brought about by the routine overuse of antibiotics just adds to the sense of relief around yesterday’s announcement that scientists have found a new antibiotic — teixobactin — that can kill serious infections in mice without encountering any detectable resistance.
Researchers believe the antibiotic, which has yet to be used on humans, could eventually treat drug-resistant infections caused by the superbug MSRA, as well as tuberculosis, illnesses that normally require a combination of drugs that can have adverse side effects. The new antibiotic, scientists believe, may offer a way to get ahead of dangerous, evolving superbugs.
The prospect of a return to a world without effective antibiotics shows how very quickly we forget how dreadful things were not so very long ago. Routine procedures such as hip replacements might become more like a game of Russian roulette rather than everyday medical procedures. If the discovery is confirmed than any new antibiotic must be regarded as a precious resource and not used so very frequently that it might ever become ineffective.
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