You have probably heard how microbes become resistant to antibiotics. At great expense, an antibiotic is developed, only to have germs (technical medical term) like staph become resistant in just a few years. It’s happening so fast that it’s becoming uneconomical for drug companies to develop new medicines.
I’ve just found an interesting NPR Radiolab podcast that tells the story of how a microbiologist with an interest in history and a historian with an interest in microbiology found and tested a thousand-year-old recipe for a “best medicine” that was written in Old English. They reproduced it, and it works! It’s even effective on superbugs.
This discovery has some interesting implications. Germs like staph have been around for millennia. If this recipe was so effective, why wasn’t it carried forward to the modern world? Could it be that the germs of a thousand years ago developed a resistance to it, so it became ineffective and was forgotten? But it seems to be effective today. Does that mean germs eventually lose their resistance? Could the antibiotics we developed twenty years ago and have become ineffective suddenly be effective again in another one hundred, five hundred, or a thousand years?
It’s fascinating to think about.
The podcast was entitled Staph Retreat and can be found here — http://www.radiolab.org/story/best-medicine/
(Photo Credit: British Museum)