The research of French scientist Louis Pasteur in the late 1800s and Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming's discovery of penicillin in the early twentieth century prepared the way for the introduction of antibiotic drugs. The commercial production of antibiotics began in the mid-1940s. It is hard to know the exact number of lives this medical advance has saved, but it must be many millions. This wonder drug still has its limits. Seventy years after antibiotics came into use there are real concerns about whether they are over-prescribed, and the extent that bacteria might have become resistant to these treatments. Some fear the world slipping back to face once again the public health challenges of the pre-antibiotic era.
Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a natural process. Bacteria have implanted within them a capability to resist the medications developed to eradicate them. At the same time, human actions exacerbate the problem. Scientists have discovered that there is a connection between the appearance of resistance to antibiotic medicines given to people and the use of the same antibiotics on farm animals. The most problematic use of antibiotics with farm animals concerns their use as artificial growth boosters rather than curing infectious diseases.
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