Monday, June 17, 2019
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Antibiotics, from miracle to danger

the XXIe century mark the end of the era of antibiotics, one of the most beautiful and most effective medical discoveries? Their abusive use but also their systematic misuse has, as we know, drastically reduced their effectiveness. And despite repeated alarms for ten years, the disaster seems inevitable. "It's a bit like global warming, says Professor Pierre-Marie Girard, head of the department of infectious diseases at the Saint-Antoine Hospital in Paris. For sure, the planet is warming up inexorably, but we are not doing anything. It's just the date of the disaster that we ignore. " This disaster scenario is told in a very precise way in Antibiotics, the end of the miracle? long documentary that will be broadcast Tuesday night on Arte, which you can already see on the site of Release (see below). Through numerous interviews with scientists, this documentary is global, shot around the world, in the United States, Europe, Vietnam and even Bangladesh.


When we look at this story, a sense of waste prevails. And this especially since it is finally short. It was in 1928 that penicillin was discovered by Fleming who noticed "that some of his bacterial cultures in forgotten boxes had been contaminated by the experiments of his benchtop neighbor studying the fungus Penicillium notatum and that it inhibited their reproduction ". A decisive step. And the opening of a new therapeutic field, the class of antibiotics, a natural or synthetic substance that destroys or blocks the growth of bacteria.

The importance of this discovery with its medical implications and uses will be understood only a few years later. And especially after the Second War. Many new antibiotics will then appear, radically transforming the management of bacterial diseases. It is estimated that in half a century, antibiotics will increase the life expectancy of those who have access to it by more than a decade, much more than any other treatment. Combined with vaccination, they will help to make large epidemic diseases largely disappear. So much so that in the 1970s the end of the said epidemics, or even of all infectious diseases, was mentioned.


So, thirty years later, history stammers, even regresses. Badly used, but also massively prescribed to animals, antibiotics have caused what we call resistances that they will be transmitted to other individuals. And ultimately, render these molecules ineffective. What will happen next? It is definitely the end of a miracle. But is this the end of antibiotics? The craziest forecasts follow each other, reports accumulate. For example, in 2016, that of the British economist Jim O'Neill, states that "If nothing is done, in 2050 antibiotic resistance would become the leading cause of death in the world. Ten million people could die every year. "



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