There is an episode of Criminal Minds, where Dr Spencer Reid gets asked to name the greatest threat to humankind. The question was flippant, but because Dr Reid is the unfunny version of Sheldon Cooper, he answers with a list of three possibilities:

  1. Global Warming
  2. Terrorism
  3. The rise of drug-resistant pathogens

That third is something that gets almost no attention. Or if it does, it’s not particularly well-explained.

Here’s what I didn’t realise (until someone said something about it on a Planet Money podcast): antibiotics are a limited resource. We don’t just “invent” them – we have to discover them. Usually, by visiting really remote locations like caves and the deep ocean and the edges of volcanos. And we’re running out of places to look.

The WHO released a report a month ago, with this ominous tagline:

“The world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treated for decades can once again kill.”


“Effective antibiotics have been one of the pillars allowing us to live longer, live healthier, and benefit from modern medicine. Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods and the implications will be devastating.”

I’m more doom and gloom about this today, because I’m suffering from slight illness. It’s the reason that this post is short.

Here is a picture:

Current State of Antibiotics (Antimicrobials) | Infographic

And here’s another one. Because I can.

What you need to know about antibiotic resistance

by World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe.
Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

Nature, eh?