The discovery of an effective alternative to antibiotics is very welcome.
That the new drug seems resistant to superbugs makes it even more so. That it may help avert a situation where many diseases now easily cured might again become life-threatening illnesses almost puts the discovery in a category of its own.
Conventional antibiotics were steadily losing their effectiveness as bugs, overexposed to the drugs over long periods of time, became resistant to them. Overuse of traditional antibiotics in food production and over- prescribing by some doctors threatened to reverse one of the great advances in science and medicine in recent centuries.
That prospect was so grim that British Prime Minister David Cameron warned of a return to “the dark ages” of health care. Should that “apocalyptic” scenario transpire then operations we now imagine routine — hip replacements and chemotherapy — might become fatal.
If the new drug proves to be as valuable as has been suggested then it must be treated as a precious resource, it must be used as a last resort rather than a go-to option for nearly every ailment seen in a general practicioner’s surgery. The discovery must be regarded as a lucky escape from the consequences of widespread overuse of traditional antibiotics in a way that rendered them ineffective and left us again vulnerable to diseases we had conquered.
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