Saturday, April 1, 2017

Armies of Microbes Take Arms: Are We Ready to Fight? (OP-ED)


An eight year old girl smiles while she gazes towards the window as the trees sway in the breeze, the children jump rope on the street, and the life monitor beeps loudly beside her head. The girl falls prey to a deadly infection that rampages through her bloodstream, resilient to all the antibiotics the doctors scramble to test.

The ineffectiveness of antibiotics remains a direct result of the misuse of antibiotics in modern society. The overuse, prevalent in doctors offices, causes our once-powerful medications to provide little to no aid. In a world where disease rates continue to spike due to medicine’s dwindling power, we need to resist the urge to jump to antibiotics immediately.

We’ve all experienced the pain that comes with a debilitating illness. Wishing to eradicate the pain promptly, we flock to the doors of our doctors hoping for a prescription to rescue us. However, each time we accept the prescription the doctor hands over quickly, we expose the bacteria within our bodies to the antibiotic’s method of attack. With the enemy’s plan in possession, the surviving bacterial strains train a whole army in the art of surviving against the antibiotic. We equip armies to fight against us, yet 30% of antibiotic prescriptions remain “inappropriate” according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When patients visit their doctor with symptoms that hint at a bacterial infection, many doctors jump immediately to parceling out antibiotics --before receiving definitive proof of infection-- to escape the risk of a misdiagnosis. Martin J. Blaser, famed bacterial researcher, advocates that the continued overuse of antibiotics due to precaution “is like carpet bombing when a laser strike is needed.” So why do we continue to trust our doctors so wholeheartedly?

Unbeknownst by many, the escalation of antibiotic resistance continues to mount a great threat against the human race. Sonia Shah, an acclaimed writer for the New York Times, delineates the shocking costs the fight against drug resistant infections elicits in the United States: up to eight million additional hospital days and over $34 billion every year. In addition to the financial burdens, the CDC reports that 23,000 American deaths and two million illnesses a year occur due to antibiotic resistant strains. As a result of the surmounting costs, the World Health Organization claimed the dire status of the antibiotic resistance crisis along with the National Health Association declaring our emergence into the post-antibiotic age.

Even though our doctors continue to prescribe antibiotics without waiting for proper test results, we possess the power to save ourselves before time runs out. To stall the spread, we can insist on waiting to receive lab results before accepting antibiotics. This obstinance may seem small, but it will help save us from the fate of the eight year old girl who lays in a hospital bed waiting for her last breath. The choice lays in the hands of our generation; will we arm ourselves and fight the war against resistant bacterial strains stampeding towards us? Or, will we continue to neglect the legion of diseases that grant mercy to none?

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