Over the last decade or so I’ve ran more and more into the idea that overuse of antibiotics was in fact training deadly microorganisms to adapt. At the time I didn’t pay much attention to the stories, since I figured it’s just another challenge for the medical world, something that science will deal with as it dealt with so many other threats before.
Thing is, a couple of years ago I noticed more and more such stories. Then, I started to think back to my childhood.
When my brother and I would get sick, my mom would take us to our GP. Out GP would “dr House” her way to a prescription, basically guesstimating a treatment. Often, that treatment would include antibiotics. Taking a cue from past situations, sometimes my mom would jump at over the counter antibiotics by default. We’d take them and should there be side effects we’d treat them symptomatically and be thankful we were ok again.
I didn’t think much of it until many years later when, in college, I would go ask for antibiotics I would remember as effective. At the pharmacy, the ladies there would raise a brow questioning my judgment.
Since then, I read enough to see the error in that way. Bacteria adapts quickly, the immune system gets too much help too often and doesn’t adapt as well as it could. Of course, it’s not a general truth — some people have a better immune system than others, some need the help while others may need less antibiotic help or none at all. Also, when you’re young, your body can deal with side-effects and recover better and fast — something that fades over time (yeah, time’s a true enemy — the more help your body needs, the less it can deal with side effects of those helpers)
Next, I though about why my parents and my GP did things that way. Speaking of my GP, she wasn’t so gung-ho about antibiotics as other doctors I’ve heard about (particularly those in public hospitals) but still …
Thing is, medical care is expensive and is needed at odd times. You’re not prepared for it, nobody can predict what will happen to them and when. But when it does, you need to deal with is fast. And given the system in place back during communist times in Romania (which covered a lot of when I was a kid but also a great deal of the post-Revolution years) then general attitude was “ain’t no one got time to investigate exactly what’s ailing you unless you sell your kidney”.
That’s right, taking the time to exactly determine what’s killing you is expensive. Doctors need to spend time analysing you with expensive equipment. Lab experts need to spend time with your faeces, blood or whatever. They all need to work through samples, error rates and so on. Or you can take the easy way and just nuke it with generic antibiotics, without even checking to see if antibiotics are the better way.
It would be great to have a medical system that would take the time and investigate, spending time to explain risks and benefits to patients. Would be great if that system wouldn’t dismiss people based on skin color, income or whatnot and treat everybody equally with the highest quality available (not affordable, but available) and in the process ensure that diseases are treated with the appropriate targeted medication, no more than what’s strictly needed … you know, make sure everybody is healthy and thus make sure nobody is left out to spread germs or serve as a training ground for super-germs.
Or, you know, we could learn from Trump and dismantle medical care for all and replace it with cost-effect medical care for those that can afford it while everybody else unwittingly joins the other side and help bacteria evolve.