Let’s start things off with some news of a genuine coming apocalypse, brought about by our near-indiscriminate use of antibiotics in both humans and livestock that have allowed for the rapid evolution of bacteria immune to everything in our arsenal.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just published a first-of-its-kind assessment of the threat the country faces from antibiotic-resistant organisms, ranking them by the number of illnesses and deaths they cause each year and outlining urgent steps that need to be taken to roll back the trend.
What makes this so important is not only the content, but the fact that it marks the first time all of this information has been compiled and organized in one place to make the establishment of a plan of attack somewhat easier. The report categorizes all of the drug-resistant illnesses – with three at top priority, another twelve “serious” – and explains for each one why they pose a threat, how they are easily transmitted, and how people can minimize risk of exposure. It also lays out a plan of action:
And it calls for action in four areas: gathering better data; preventing infections, through vaccination, better protective behavior in hospitals, and better food handling; improving the way in which antibiotics are used, by not using them inappropriately in health care or agriculture; and developing not just new categories of antibiotics but better diagnostic tests so that resistant organisms can be identified and dealt with sooner, before they spread.
I’m going off on a bit of a tangent, but of these four areas, probably the most frightening to me is the degree to which antibiotics are being used in agriculture. Back in 2011, the FDA confirmed that about 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States were used on livestock. Worse, much of this usage is of the “sub-therapeutic” variety … meaning that they’re not used for when the animal falls ill, but to prevent them from becoming ill in the first place. It’s also a wonderful environment for breeding bacteria that will eventually become immune to it, no matter how much is used even on a therapeutic level.
Kind of makes you wish creationists were right and that this kind of thing just doesn’t happen, don’t you? Now, for their part, a number of large scale poultry farmers like Purdue, Foster, and Tyson have already made moves to eliminate sub-therapeutic antibiotics and just focus on administering them when a population of their animals are actually sick, significantly reducing the time spent on the drugs. This, combined with public awareness of the issue (regardless of exactly how informed it is) will likely push the industry away from their use altogether in the next decade or so. If this is true, one of the largest sources of antibiotics resistance will be under far greater control. As always, time will tell.
Now, for the amusement:
REDDING, CA—Though now in the stage of her life when her body is at its most fertile, local teenager Katie Stevens is evidently choosing to squander her peak childbearing years by devoting herself to obtaining a high school education, sources confirmed Tuesday.
According to reports, the 18-year-old Stevens has done nothing in the past few years but fritter away her once-in-a-lifetime period of optimum reproductive capability, idly spending her time in classrooms where she listens to hours upon hours of lectures about mathematics, history, English, and science.
Seriously, I don’t know what the hell she’s waiting for. Doesn’t she realize yet that college is a waste of time?