Science and Journalism in Society

Brandeis University JOUR 130B

A Time Before Antibiotics

When I get sick, I usually let my immune system fight off the “bug” on its own. However, when the symptoms persist, I find myself rushing to find the right medicine to help me return to a healthy state. I never thought to myself, what would I do if I did not have the proper medicine to eradicate my symptoms? Now that is a good question.

For my first blogpost I chose to write about the first time I learned about antibiotic resistance and how the topic continued to come up throughout my studies as a health science major. While online searching for the latest science articles, I found yet another recently published article on the topic of antibiotic resistance. Instead of focusing solely on the threat of resistance or a new resistant gene that was found, this article takes on a different approach to the topic by discussing how doctors used to treat bacterial infections in a time when there were no antibiotics to do the job.

In the article by Cristie Columbus, various methods for treating bacterial infections in the past are explained in detail. These include bloodletting, leeches, mercury, and herbal remedies. It was believed that the use of bloodletting and leeches helped to maintain homeostasis of the blood by ensuring that blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile were all balanced within the body. For chemicals like iodine, bromine, and mercury they were believed to inhibit bacterial replication killing off the infection. Columbus mentions, however, that researchers now know that these chemicals not only kill bacteria, but also cause harm to human cells and can cause more problems for a person’s health. The last method, herbal remedies, were most often used in liquid forms like tea, and are said to still be used in some ways in present day.

The article acknowledges that not all of these methods were effective in treating cases of bacterial infections, and not all are used today. The article also brings to question, if antibiotic resistance does occur will doctors return to older methods to treat bacterial infections? Although there is no answer to this question at the moment it is both essential and interesting to gain insight into alternative treatment methods and question what the future will hold.



1 Comment

  1. Consider a punchier ending like “question what the hospitals of the future will keep in stock.” Great work!

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