With antibiotics used not just for fighting serious infectious diseases, but also for agriculture and simple, everyday injuries, Maryn McKenna looks at the past to see what life will be like when we lose these drugs entirely. The future sounds grim, almost medieval, with people dying of simple infections that were treatable only a few years ago.
Before antibiotics, five women died out of every 1,000 who gave birth. One out of nine people who got a skin infection died, even from something as simple as a scrape or an insect bite. Three out of ten people who contracted pneumonia died from it. Ear infections caused deafness; sore throats were followed by heart failure. In a post-antibiotic era, would you mess around with power tools? Let your kid climb a tree? Have another child?
Right now, if you want to be a sharp-looking hipster and get a tattoo, youre not putting your life on the line, says the CDCs Bell. Botox injections, liposuction, those become possibly life-threatening. Even driving to work: We rely on antibiotics to make a major accident something we can get through, as opposed to a death sentence.
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