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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

We’re all going to die come 2050

With every new year, my list of resolutions seems to get lengthier. It will always include the ever popular “workout more and be healthy,” a love-myself mantra of “screw the haters” and probably something unrealistic like “write a book.” All nice goals. And with every new year comes anxiety — terrorism, impending nuclear war, climate change and the cost of cable. 

But this year, we have something to be truly afraid of that we rarely think about: antibiotic resistance. Scary, right? 

Imagine my alarm when the headline “Antibiotic Failure Will Kill 10 Million People a Year by 2050” popped up on the Mother Jones homepage a week ago. The author, Tom Philpott , explained that a combination of antibiotic abuse in the medical field and the farming industry will result in extensive loss of life in the near future. 

I spend so much time worrying about problems far beyond my control that I never realized we are on the brink of a controllable epidemic. Life is ironic that way. 

Antibiotics were created to attack bacterial pathogens; they have no effect on viruses but are widely overprescribed for viral illnesses. I am guilty of antibiotic abuse myself: My mother and I tend to hoard Z-Paks like they are bars of gold and start one at the smallest sign of a scratchy throat or runny nose — cold symptoms, caused by a virus.

And even those of us who are prescribed medication properly contribute frequently to the evolving death machine of bacteria: When patients stop taking their antibiotics because they feel better and they don’t finish their prescription, some bacteria survive within their bodies. These bacteria become stronger and more resistant to the antibiotic but, had the patients finished their damn pills, they would have just killed the bacteria off.

Philpott also pointed out the many “high-stress but routine situations”  in which people heavily rely on antibiotics, such as cesarean sections or car accidents. What happens when an infection kills everyone involved in a 10-car pile up because antibiotic use is as mundane as water?

So, to change up my resolutions, I am vowing to use simpler methods of fighting a common cold or flu — like rest, water and Advil — and to only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary, and by following my doctor’s exact directions. 

In doing this, I’ll have solved less than half of our battle against bacteria. The rest lies in the hands of industrial farms and their unhealthy practices.

Companies that are considered AFOs, or Animal Feeding Operations, pump their livestock with antibiotics for growth, disease prevention and weight gain. As more livestock are born into these death traps, they develop antibiotic-resistant bacteria that, in turn, are packaged and fed to the world. Eighty percent of the antibiotics consumed in the country can be found in the local deli aisle.

So, I propose another resolution: Let’s eat less meat, and let’s demand that any meat we do consume comes from pasture-fed, free-range animals instead of AFOs.

Not only does antibiotic resistance have the potential to kill everyone, it could bankrupt the country first. It costs money to constantly develop new antibiotics and to produce higher quantities of them. By 2050, according to Philpott, we’ll be spending $8 trillion a year globally in making antibiotics.

If we start making changes in 2015, maybe they will lead to a dramatic change in the future. And if we don’t, change is going to come anyway.

If we continue to ignore this issue, more people will begin to die every year from antibiotic resistance. We might be far removed from campus by then, but where will we all be? Safe? Suffering? Or already dead?

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Trey Ross is journalism sophomore. Follow her on Twitter.

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