Antibiotics enable much of the lifestyle we’ve grown accustomed to on planet Earth. An infected wound or case of syphilis or any of the other great many sinister things caused by bad bacteria are no longer things that carry a very real possibility of imminent painful death. Just that fact has made all the difference in our world in terms of life-span and quality of life. If a dog bites you or you step on a rusty nail, death is no longer a probable result. That’s great. Things that are great, however, tend to be overused, and antibiotics are no exception.
In addition to stopping various multiplying pathogens racing around your blood stream or clinging to vital organs or partying in dirty wounds, antibiotics are routinely used for such things as clearing up acne and “curing” colds that are probably not actually related to bacterial infection in the first place. In fact, the CDC estimates that up to half of all antibiotics delivered in a hospital setting are unnessessary. And antibiotics are used in agriculture, in part to reduce the chances of foodborne illness, but also to promote growth in animals. Though we’ve had very little idea as to why they actually do this until a recent discovery made at the NYU School of Medicine.