Why Reversing ABR Isn’t Impossible

After weeks and weeks of antibiotic discussions, I am sure you think you have heard it all. I have researched and blogged about everything from plant-based alternative drugs to government regulation on antibiotics to the true effects of alcohol when mixed with antibiotics. If you are wondering what more I could possibly blog about, then you and I are wondering about the same thing. I hope my readers are more informed about some of the concepts and theories related to antibiotics because that is what my blog aims to do. However, instead of continuing to raise awareness, I would like to highlight an historical example. More specifically, I want this discussion to focus on antibiotics and antibiotic resistance in Malawi.

Chloroquine is one of the most effective medicines to prevent and treat malaria, a very dangerous mosquito-borne infectious disease. However, it also has some severe side effects, including loss of appetite, diarrhea, skin rash, vision problems, seizures, and low blood cell counts amongst others. Malawi is a tropical country in southeastern Africa with a very warm climate and lots of highlands, forests, and jungles. All things considered, it makes sense that the country primarily used chloroquine, and they certainly did use lots of it, to fight malaria in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, what most people do not know is that the country’s government banned the use of chloroquine starting in 1993 because of fear of growing antibiotic resistance within the civilian population. Yes, at the time, banning the drug did put many individuals in danger of contracting malaria, but try to see the bigger picture. By 2009, only 16 years later, malaria had lost all of its resistance traits to chloroquine. All of a sudden, chloroquine had the effects of a brand new drug on malaria. There was nothing different about the chloroquine, except for the fact that the malaria infection had not seen chloroquine in over 15 years. The point here is that if we really want to see some change and progress in terms of combatting antibiotic resistance here in the U.S., we have to be willing to do something drastic. Banning a substance for 16 years does not come easy, but it can be done, and if we want our kids and grandkids to have healthy, safe futures, then I think it is something we should all consider.

The focus is not only on stopping resistance, but reversing it. This is entirely possible, and the Malawi case is recent, documented evidence of it. It is one thing to think about alternatives to antibiotics, but it is entirely different to about plausible alternatives. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, and difficulty.”

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with a quick hitter instead of the long shot suggestion of banning antibiotics for more than a decade. If there is one last piece of advice I could give, it would be to get a flu shot, and Ramanan Laxminarayan from the U.S. Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy would agree. Obviously the flu shot itself does not and cannot prevent ABR. However, the flu illness is one of the major reasons that millions of Americans are prescribed antibiotics every year. If you get a flu shot, then you most likely will not get the flu, and therefore will not need any antibiotics to combat the flu. Just some food for thought on this fine day.

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