Better Microbes: Nature Abhors Promiscuity

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From John Stonestreet at Breakpoint—I encourage you to read the entire article—the long excerpt should provide the hook:

My colleague Eric Metaxas recently told BreakPoint listeners about a new strain of gonorrhea “that is resistant to the only class of drugs that can ‘reliably treat’ the disease.”

What’s true of bacteria like Neisseria gonorrhoeae is also true of virtually every other microbe: They are very adaptable and they change faster than our ability to develop treatments that will kill them.

But in order to adapt, they often need—and get—a helping hand from humans.

Let me explain. As Laurie Garrett chronicled in her book, “The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance,” the four decades between Alexander Flemings’ discovery of penicillin and the mid-1960s were the most optimistic time in the history of medicine.

The development of more-effective antibiotics and breakthroughs in genetics and cancer research led many in the medical profession to look forward to the day when even old killers like cancer would be considered chronic, but not fatal, conditions.

Nowhere was this optimism more keenly felt than in the area of sexually-transmitted diseases. The incidence of STDs had dropped precipitously, and cases were easily treated with antibiotics. Resources previously devoted to keeping STDs in check were being shifted elsewhere.

But in less than a decade, this optimism was gone. Why? The Sexual Revolution. As Garrett tells us, changing sexual mores during the 60s and 70s acted as a kind of growth medium for STDs like gonorrhea to evolve into the “superbugs” that have public health officials worried today.

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