Antibiotics and a Threat in the Future

Posted on May 15, 2018 by Martin Oaks under Community, Hello world, Resources
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As we pointed out in our last blog, operating Martin Oaks Cemetery and Crematory inevitably leads us into conversations that involve health concerns, causes of death and medical advances.

Obviously, we claim no medical expertise, microbiological credentials or even much more than common sense health knowledge — but because of the nature of our work, interest in these areas does exist.

In the event that you are new to this space, Martin Oaks is a crematory and cemetery located in Lewisville, Texas — a northern suburb of Dallas, Texas, just twenty minutes from the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.

Martin Oaks started off in Civil War times as a cemetery on the old Martin family cattle ranch.

We have many historical markers that date back to that period; a stroll through our grounds can really be a snapshot of the development of the entire Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.

In the early 1980’s, Martin Oaks opened a crematory on the grounds of the cemetery, as was the custom of the time.  Since that date, we have provided cremations for thousands in and around North Texas.

Our last blog briefly touched on the subject of proper handwashing and other sanitary topics.

Today, we will deal with antibiotics, their history, what is happening with them now, and where these drugs are possibly headed.


The scientific breakthroughs that led to the discovery of antibiotics are among the most important work humankind has done.  Sure, the automobile, telephone and computers changed our lives, but the discovery of antibiotics saved our lives.

Quite simply, an antibiotic is a drug, a medicine that destroys or inhibits the growth of microorganisms.  It is used for the treatment of and prevention of bacterial infections.

A hundred years ago, those infections killed people.

In the late 19th century, a German physician, Paul Ehrlich, theorized that there were certain dyes that could impact some cells without killing other cells.  By 1909, he had developed a chemical that could be used to treat STD — this was really the first antibiotic.


Perhaps a name better known to the public is Sir Alexander Fleming, the Scottish MD and research scientist who accidently discovered penicillin.

Born in 1881, Fleming was deeply impressed by what he saw in battlefield hospitals in World War I — antiseptics which were used to treat wounds sometimes appeared to make the condition worse.

When he returned to St. Mary’s Hospital in London following “the war to end all wars,” he began to seriously tackle these issues.

Following a summer holiday in 1928, he returned to what has been described as an “untidy” lab to discover a culture of bacteria that had been left out had been destroyed by a fungus; some of the same bacteria, which had not been subject to the fungus, had not been destroyed.

This accident ultimately culminated in the discovery of penicillin.

In 1945, Fleming, and two others who helped with the widespread production of the product, won the Nobel Prize. Talk about a well-deserved honor!

It was soon deduced that antibiotics were effective against bacteria — but not against health problems generated by viruses (colds, flu, most sore throats).  In fact, taking antibiotics for such conditions may produce reactions that are not desirable.

The other feature of antibiotics, one which was forecast by Fleming himself, is that through use, bacteria will eventually develop resistance to those antibiotics. Fleming was particularly concerned about what he termed “ignorant” overuse — evolutionary factors will lead to this feared resistance.

Fleming was farsighted. Today, we are seeing exactly what can happen when bacteria are resistant to these medicines.

There are some new antibiotics that have been developed in the last 30 years, but the World Health Organization has warned that we are in a race against time on this front.

As recently as a year ago, WHO has expressed concerned that “superbugs” have become “priority pathogens” which represent serious threats.

Hopefully, these warnings will promote needed additional research and development — it wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have antibiotics at all, a condition we certainly don’t want to replicate in the future.



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