First Prize (Secondary Section): Essay Contest
And the top prize for the Post-Antibiotic World Essay Competition goes to Chan Ger Hui. Well-deserved!
A Post-Antibiotic World
It all started with one small holiday
And one very small spore.
Stray fungi growing on a petri dish
Was soon to be so much more.
Remember for this discovery Fleming—
But forget not Florey, Chain, and Heatley.
For penicillin was born; produced and perfected
Through their hard work and serendipity.
The first antibiotic: a true miracle!
It changed the surface of our world.
Once we could die of cuts and colds
Now they were no longer to be feared.
It vanquished diseases thought incurable—
People used them for every ill!
Humans were saved, livestock kept healthy…
…until one day, it couldn’t kill.
See, this was the start of every story
And inevitably its only end.
After penicillin followed others
But came the drug resistances again
For antibiotic abuse abounded
Driven by ignorance and greed:
Overuse, negligent use, use of no need
Drug-resistant bacteria had started to breed.
Not only M. tuberculosis—
S. aureus and E. coli too grew strong;
Soon appeared XDR, MDR, MRSA!*
They represent all that’s gone wrong.
Still, that was merely decades ago
When the problem was not quite so worrying;
Fast-forward yet more, to have a look
At this post-antibiotic world now before me:
You see thousands dying in hospitals
Diseases that we once could cure
Now as bacteria spread from bed to bed
They’ve become a cause for fear;
You see the lists of drug resistances
Grow longer every day,
And the list of antibiotics can’t catch up
No matter how hard you pray;
You see patients’ hope for recovery
And the colour from their faces fly
When the doctors say antibiotics will be of no use
“Sorry, but all we can do is try.”
They’ve become major killers again
And an expensive problem to boot.
Drug resistances all around the globe
Leave nations helpless, too soon.
Even the simplest of common colds
Easily rid of back in the day
Has mutated, built up its defence
So only the strongest can be used to slay.
So you see the aftermath
Of the mistakes we’ve made before.
Now our deadliest weapons are useless.
We can only wait to find more.
Yet in the darkness there will be hope
The quest for alternatives has fast proceeded.
Already research has shown much promise
Perhaps one day antibiotics will be unneeded.
Spices and plant-based compounds
Are joining the battle too.
Taken together with antibiotics
Possibility of resistance will be reduced.
Human error contributed to the cause
So that has long since been addressed.
Today international law bans antibiotic misuse
Clinics and farms are subjected to checks.
Antibiotic production has plummeted
Use is restricted to treatment, no more.
No chance for them to leak into environments
And encourage bacteria mutation galore.
The world has changed so much from when
It was first declared “post-antibiotic”.
Looking at it now, I’m proud and glad
But another problem’s making me neurotic…
Even as far as we’ve come, it’s still not enough
There’s still nothing I can do.
My chances are low, my days are numbered
I’m down with a bad MDR flu.*
Already nurses have told me twice
“We thought we’d really lost you.”
Saved by miracles and too-potent drugs
But I know my time will come soon.
Perhaps the world will forever stay
In this post-antibiotic state we’re in.
I have my doubts, now looking back
That antibiotics were never meant to be
The perfect answer for everything
Nor some ever-lasting cure.
Even if we’d treated this treasure more wisely
Drug resistances would still (but more slowly) appear…
As my time nears, I wonder:
Will the world ever recover?
Will antibiotics return to the miracle they once were?
Will we find something else to kill bacteria, perhaps?
…would I have lived if I’d been born decades earlier?
*XDR: extensively drug-resistant
MRSA: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus