Antibiotics are Great, but Don’t Overuse Them

After yesterday’s post, let’s make antibiotics the topic of the week:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlRApHo1njU

This is an interesting video and the book looks promising, but the journalist (who is probably an intelligent young man) struggles with trying to portrait antibiotics as either saviours or a curse. It is a paradoxical situation. Are the standards of public discourse so low that any concept beyond good/ungood is too complex?

It’s not that complicated antibiotic are awesome, but don’t over overuse them.

First of all, antibiotic overuse is a problem because antibiotics are awesome. People taking antibiotics for the flu (which, because it is viral, does not respond to antibiotics) risk creating bacterial infections which are antibiotic resistant. However, before antibiotics people would die from all sorts of things we now think of as harmless [1].

Also, antibiotics do have other side-effects on the microbiota, therefore don’t take them when you don’t have to. In particular, they mess up your microbiome, which is not something you want to do all the time. However, this is just like most medications: good when you are sick, but with some side-effects. Why is it complicated?

[1] The societal implications of antibiotics include safe child labour, safe abortions, and safe sex. Rolling these back would be a bit of a shame. Not to mention the explosion in child mortality that’d ensue.
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