Is the world bound to transition towards a post-antibiotic era, in which infections that have been easily cured for decades might resume killing people? A recent report from the World Health Organization unveils a global emergency that has been long underestimated. By the mid-20th century the discovery of antibiotics had profoundly changed the treatment and prevention of previously incurable infections. This encouraged the illusion that the battle against major epidemics had been won. Today, however, the often inappropriate use of drugs has caused the spread of resistant strains, thus creating a public health emergency having both clinical effects (longer durations of illness and emergence of potentially lethal complications) and widespread economic consequences. How will humankind overcome this major threat to global health?
Francesco Scaglione teaches Pharmacology at the University of Milan and heads the Clinical Pharmacological Service at that city’s Niguarda Hospital. He is also president of the Federation of European Societies for Chemotherapy and Infections and a member of the Executive Council of the International Society of Chemotherapy and Infections.