To What Extent Can or Should Antibiotics in America be Regulated?
Home  |  Exhibition Home  |  Paper  |  Works Cited  |  Presentation  |  Links and Resources

Exhibition Paper

I. Introduction
II. Background

     a. antibiotics
     b. antibiotic resistance
III. Issues
     a. surveillance
     b. doctors and patients
     c. effects
IV. Analysis and Conclusion

Paper Home


I. Introduction

In 1928, British Bacteriologist Alexander Fleming discovered the world’s first antibiotic, penicillin.  As medical professionals and patients around the globe observed the drug’s “miraculous” ability to cure infection while leaving its host unharmed, an air of awe and enthusiasm surrounded Fleming’s finding.  Fleming had but one worry; in a 1945 interview with The New York Times, he cautioned that the misuse of penicillin could lead to the rise of mutant bacteria with a developed resistance to the drug.  In the years that Fleming had been studying the behavior of the world’s first antimicrobial, he discovered that when he used amounts of penicillin too small to destroy targeted bacteria, the pathogens evolved and mutated so that their cell walls were less susceptible to a second dose (Levy 8).  Fleming warned the world:

            The greatest possibility of evil in self-medication is the use of too small doses so that instead of clearing up infection,
            the microbes are educated to resist penicillin and a host of penicillin fast organisms is bred out which can be passed to
            other individuals and from them to others until they reach someone who gets a septicemia or a pneumonia which
            penicillin cannot save (Levy 8).

Fleming’s statement, recorded nearly 70 years ago, refers to a natural phenomenon called antibiotic resistance – the process during which bacterial pathogens evolve to resist the drugs that threaten their survival.  Today, with over 100 different antibiotics in its arsenal (Levy 128), and approximately 50 million pounds of antibiotics distributed annually (National, Antimicrobial 39), concern for antibiotic resistance emergence in America is more relevant than ever.  Already, the rising rates of emerging resistance have made life-threatening diseases such as tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and malaria more difficult to treat (“Growing”) and are the cause of 40,000 American deaths annually (Laxminarayan 110).  The degree to which antibiotics are used unnecessarily in America has launched humanity in the direction of a global health crisis, “an era of infectious disease similar to the one before antibiotics” (United Impacts 1), if not worse.

Antibiotics in the United States must be more strictly regulated to avoid a potentially disastrous national and global health crisis.  This regulation must be enforced under a federal mandate that thwarts the two major contributors to antibiotic resistance in America: (1) the use of antibiotics for growth promotion among livestock and (2) unnecessary drug prescriptions.  Furthermore, a national surveillance system must be implemented that would monitor both drug use and drug-resistance emergence.  Strict antibiotic regulation is possible on a national level and must happen.


Copyright John 2006. All Rights Reserved.