Antibiotics given for free in Florida Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Antibióticos que funcionen

CIUDAD DE MÉXICO – Desde el descubrimiento de la penicilina en 1928 hasta la introducción del último de los grandes grupos de antibióticos en los sesenta, la capacidad de la humanidad para combatir las bacterias patógenas fue un motor de transformación. Pero con el tiempo, la cantidad de antibióticos con efecto sobre las bacterias ha ido mermando, y algunos patógenos se han vuelto resistentes a todos o casi todos los fármacos conocidos: enfermedades infecciosas que eran tratables se están volviendo mortales otra vez.

Se calcula que la resistencia a antibióticos ya produce unas 700 000 muertes al año, con un costo económico sideral. Conforme esto siga menoscabando nuestra capacidad para tratar el cáncer, hacer transplantes de órganos y colocar prótesis, la cifra no dejará de aumentar.

Muchos factores han contribuido al aumento de la resistencia a antibióticos. Las bacterias pueden reproducirse y mutar con gran rapidez, y son capaces de establecer una especie de “Internet genética” que permite a ciertos microorganismos patógenos “descargar” genes de resistencia. Además, la mayoría de los antibióticos son productos naturales de bacterias del suelo, donde puede producirse resistencia en forma natural: por la introducción de antibióticos artificiales a gran escala, las bacterias resistentes se han vuelto las más prevalentes.

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