Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

I'm expected to survive

Turns out I don't have Lyme disease. Since I'm already in the middle of a story with more than enough bodily fluids and parts and to permanently repel my audience (oh yeah, it just gets better), I won't get any more specific about this one.

It's curable with antibiotics. I'm taking Doxycycline, and it's working, although a lot more slowly than I would like. Just look at me, complaining because I'm not being cured fast enough. Let's put this in perspective, shall we?

Prior to the antibiotic era -- which is scarcely 50 years old, as far as routine availability in the wealthy countries -- the condition I have now would very likely have led ultimately to a massive systemic infection and death. People took it for granted that something like that could happen to them at any time, and that making it to old age was a rare privilege. Surgery was possible but far more dangerous than it is now. Women often died in childbirth. Children who got sore throats frequently ended up with damaged hearts. Injuries that we would consider fairly minor had to be treated by amputating the affected limb and burning the stump with a hot iron, or gangrene and death might ensue.

We should all have a sense of urgency about antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics are not the most profitable line for drug companies so they invest little in developing new ones, even as old standbys continue to lose their efficacy to evolving populations of bacteria. (Of course, fairness and balance requires us to teach children that evolution is only a theory, and that it is just as reasonable to believe that God created all the bacteria, just as they are now, 6,000 years ago.)

For no more compelling reasons than folly, laziness and greed, we are encouraging this process. I encourage you to visit my friends at the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics. They've got information for individual patients, health care providers, farmers, and local and international activists and concerned citizens. No need for me to say more.

I'll get back to the saga of my intestinal fortitude later today, I hope. I'm trying to figure out the best way to break the elephant into bite sized chunks.

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