‘Imagining the Post Antibiotics Future’ and ‘The Return of Measles‘ are two articles discussed our English 202C Technical writing course that relate to the topic Public Health. These articles talk about the public misuse (or disuse) of medicines that are derailing modern therapies for everyone.
As ItPAF details, the overuse and misuse of antibiotics are destroying the safety net that antibiotics have created. By overusing antibiotics, only the strongest bacteria are able to prosper, which means that the new dominant form of a disease will now be resistant to the previously used antibiotics.
In TRoM, the effects of the growing anti-vaccine movement are shown through the breach in our herd immunity. The re-emergence of a terrible long gone disease just illustrates exactly how harmful the antivaccine movement can be. In 1998, a controversial research paper was released by disgraced doctor Andrew Wakefield, falsely correlating the MMR vaccine and autism. Although the paper was redacted, many uneducated people still cite it, fueling the fire of the anti-vaxxer movement.
These graphs from the Center for Disease Control show the cases of measles over time in the United States, with a marked plummet in cases when the vaccine was introduced to the public. There is also a large resurgence in 1990, which was largely attributed to low vaccination rates among poor people, specifically to due lack of access to healthcare for minorities.
What we’re seeing today is more low vaccination rates; however, this time they are voluntary. The misinformation spread by a few are especially harmful to people that can’t make those decisions for themselves, like infants and the elderly. If the herd immunity fails completely, everyone will be potentially at risk.
There is still hope in correcting all this and reducing the misuse of antibiotics and under-use of vaccines. There are alternatives to vaccinations that are currently being studied. One such method is to replace the use of vaccines where they are most heavily used: in livestock. Most livestock in the US are grown in conditions that are optimal for disease to spread, so they are often given antibiotics mixed in with their food, making it the food industry the largest user of antibiotics.
To do this, scientists have isolated a protein called Intimin from pathogenic E.Coli, the main infectious pathogen found in beef and other meats. The gene for the protein is then placed into plants, so that the plant makes the same protein the bacteria does. When the cow’s immune system encounters the protein, it creates an immune response in the very same way that a vaccine would, and produces antibodies. This keeps the cow healthy and safe from any further infections, and would allow you to take a big bite out of a rare steak without having to think twice about whether it was cooked thoroughly enough.
The same thing could be done with people, where we could just put our vaccinations into the food that we eat. It would certainly beat getting a shot, and many people would actually look forward to it!