De sociale wetenschap van de geneeskunde

DAVOS – Toen ik midden jaren tachtig medicijnen studeerde, liep ik malaria op in Papoea Nieuw-Guinea. Dat was een vreselijke ervaring. Mijn hoofd deed pijn. Mijn temperatuur liep op. Ik kreeg bloedarmoede. Maar ik slikte mijn medicijnen en knapte weer op. De ervaring was niet plezierig, maar dankzij de goedkope, doeltreffende geneesmiddelen tegen malaria verkeerde ik nooit heel erg in gevaar.

De pillen die mij geneesden, chloroquine-tabletten, werken nu niet meer. Zelfs op het moment dat ik ze slikte was de malariaparasiet in veel delen van de wereld al resistent geworden tegen chloroquine; Papoea Nieuw-Guinea was één van de laatste plekken waar de pillen effectief bleven, en zelfs daar verloren ze hun kracht. Vandaag de dag is chloroquine in feite uit ons medisch arsenaal verdwenen.

Het toenemende vermogen van ziekteverwekkers om resistent te worden tegen antibiotica en andere antimicrobiële geneesmiddelen is zich aan het ontwikkelen tot de grootste crisis in de hedendaagse gezondheidszorg – en het is een crisis die niet alleen door de wetenschap kan worden opgelost.

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