In the last century medical advances and enhanced knowledge of the origins and causes of disease have led to an unprecedented increase in longevity and quality of life for those fortunate enough to enjoy access to drugs and vaccines.
With those gifts has come a kind of complacency that could well lead humanity into the same straits as the fabled hare who slept while the turtle crept, and thereby lost the race.
Be it medical interventions or a bounty of medications that have transformed our experience of life into something other than the precarious existence of our ancestors, humanity still has much to learn about the wise and wide use of antimicrobial drugs.
We need to use our resources wisely; to widen access to appropriate medications to encompass all people – regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic status – while at the same time reserving these precious compounds to treat only those diseases for which they are specifically required. We need to continue the fight to end conditions of poverty, ignorance, greed and social injustice that force individuals and health care providers into decisions that will ultimately bring about our own downfall. The potential of drug resistance to catapult us all back into a world of premature death and chronic illness is all too real.
Our grandparents lived during an age without antibiotics. So could many of our grandchildren. We have the means to ensure antibiotics remain effective, but we are running out of time. Our window of opportunity to help those impoverished by infectious diseases is closing.
Project management: James N. Mullally,
Social Mobilization and Training
Photographs: WHO/TDR Photo Library, Science Library (UK)
© World Health Organization 2000 Publication Code: WHO/CDS/2000.2
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