Sustainable Antibiotics

| November-December 2007

Every year thousands of Americans suffer because their infections are resistant to antibiotics. We’re all to blame. Every time we beg our doctor for an antibiotic to treat a virus that’s going around, we end up with drug-resilient cells that generate mutant strains of infection that are immune to antibiotics. Resources (#165) describes a novel solution to this communal problem: Treat antibiotic effectiveness as a natural resource, like forests, fisheries, and oil production. To protect this valuable resource, the government would educate patients and physicians about the risks of popping pills at the first sign of a sniffle, encourage the development of new antibiotics to stay ahead of resistance, and crack down on incentives that have pharmaceutical companies pushing prescriptions for ailments that fluids and rest could treat.