Let’s get smart about antibiotics

By Luis Castagnini, MD
Section Chief, Department of Infectious Diseases
Baylor College of Medicine
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Co-Authored by
Ruchi Kaushik, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics
Baylor College of Medicine
Medical Director, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Blog

The discovery of antibiotics almost a century ago is considered one of the greatest medical advancements in human history. An infection considered minor today (i.e. infected wound or ear infection) was devastating or even fatal before 1928, when Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. This discovery allowed health care providers to treat and cure bacterial infections like pneumonia or skin infections in a relatively safe manner. These marvelous chemicals are now used routinely in medical practices all over the world and have changed the way we live our lives.

Unfortunately, during the last few decades, we have seen the rise of antibiotic resistance. The ability of bacteria to escape unharmed from the effects of these medications designed to kill them is now pervasive and a public health threat. Sir Alexander Fleming said it himself in 1945, shortly after he received the Nobel Prize in Medicine,

The thoughtless person playing with penicillin treatment is morally responsible for the death of the man who succumbs to infection with the penicillin-resistant organism.

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