How to Destroy the Planet

By Eric Roston - 2012-04-20T12:50:43Z

Photograph by Clive Druett/Papilio/Corbis

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Antibiotic Resistance

THREAT: Humanity loses its evolutionary arms race with infectious bacteria. The crisis begins with children needing more rounds of ever-stronger drugs to knock out common ailments, such as strep throat. Drug-resistant staph infections grow more numerous and serious. A reinvigorated Black Death returns?

REALITY: Antibiotic overuse is a modern danger, producing virulent strains of tuberculosis and staph infections in recent years. Developing countries such as India, where dense populations have easy access to antibiotics with little oversight, create melting pots where new forms of old illnesses thrive.

Solutions include managing medical and veterinary use better, sickness prevention, and building out the drug-development pipeline.

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration issued guidance to livestock and pharmaceutical industries to begin addressing the risks. Consumer groups say allowing industry to police itself will fail.

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