While the worst thing about the evolution of bacterial antibiotic resistance is that we simply can’t treat deadly infections, there is a second worst thing–many more people will be needlessly miserable and sick (boldface mine):
The first antibiotic that didn’t work for Debbi Forsyth was trimethoprim. In March 2016, Forsyth, a genial primary care counsellor from Morpeth, Northumberland, contracted a urinary tract infection. UTIs are common: more than 150 million people worldwide contract one every year. So when Forsyth saw her GP, they prescribed the usual treatment: a three-day course of antibiotics. When, a few weeks later, she fainted and started passing blood, she saw her GP again, who again prescribed trimethoprim.
Three days after that, Forsyth’s husband Pete came home to find his wife lying on the sofa, shaking, unable to call for help. He rushed her to hospital. She was put on a second antibiotic, gentamicin, and treated for sepsis, a complication of the infection that can be fatal if not treated quickly. The gentamicin didn’t work either. Doctors sent Forsyth’s blood for testing, but such tests can take days: bacteria must be grown in cultures, then tested against multiple antibiotics to find a suitable treatment. Five days after she was admitted to hospital, Forsyth was diagnosed with an infection of multi-drug-resistant E. coli, and given ertapenem, one of the so-called “last resort” antibiotics.
It worked. But damage from the episode has lingered and she lives in constant fear of an infection recurring. Six months after her collapse, she developed another UTI, resulting, again, in a hospital stay.
“I’ve had to accept that I will no longer get back to where I was,” she says. “My daughter and son said they felt like they lost their mum, because I wasn’t who I used to be.”
While focus on mortality for obvious reasons, a world with many more antibiotic resistant infections is also an ugly, miserable world where many illnesses become chronic and debilitating. This will hit women especially hard, as UTIs, outside of clinical settings (e.g., catheters in hospitals) overwhelmingly affect women.
You don’t want to die from antibiotic resistant infection, but you don’t want to live with them either.