Post-Antibiotic Essay Contest: First winner (Secondary school category)

A Post-Antibiotic World

Chan Ger Hui, Dunman High School

It all started with one small holiday

And one very small spore.

Stray fungi growing on a petri dish

Was soon to be so much more.

Remember for this discovery Fleming—

But forget not Florey, Chain, and Heatley.

For penicillin was born; produced and perfected

Through their hard work and serendipity.

The first antibiotic: a true miracle!

It changed the surface of our world.

Once we could die of cuts and colds

Now they were no longer to be feared.

It vanquished diseases thought incurable—

People used them for every ill!

Humans were saved, livestock kept healthy…

…until one day, it couldn’t kill.

See, this was the start of every story

And inevitably its only end.

After penicillin followed others

But came the drug resistances again

For antibiotic abuse abounded

Driven by ignorance and greed:

Overuse, negligent use, use of no need

Drug-resistant bacteria had started to breed.

Not only M. tuberculosis

S.aureus and E. coli too grew strong;

Soon appeared XDR, MDR, MRSA!*

They represent all that’s gone wrong.

Still, that was merely decades ago

When the problem was not quite so worrying;

Fast-forward yet more, to have a look

At this post-antibiotic world now before me:

You see thousands dying in hospitals

Diseases that we once could cure

Now as bacteria spread from bed to bed

They’ve become a cause for fear;

You see the lists of drug resistances

Grow longer every day,

And the list of antibiotics can’t catch up

No matter how hard you pray;

You see patients’ hope for recovery

And the colour from their faces fly

When the doctors say antibiotics will be of no use

“Sorry, but all we can do is try.”

They’ve become major killers again

And an expensive problem to boot.

Drug resistances all around the globe

Leave nations helpless, too soon.

Even the simplest of common colds

Easily rid of back in the day

Has mutated, built up its defence

So only the strongest can be used to slay.

So you see the aftermath

Of the mistakes we’ve made before.

Now our deadliest weapons are useless.

We can only wait to find more.

Yet in the darkness there will be hope

The quest for alternatives has fast proceeded.

Already research has shown much promise

Perhaps one day antibiotics will be unneeded.

Spices and plant-based compounds

Are joining the battle too.

Taken together with antibiotics

Possibility of resistance will be reduced.

Human error contributed to the cause

So that has long since been addressed.

Today international law bans antibiotic misuse

Clinics and farms are subjected to checks.

Antibiotic production has plummeted

Use is restricted to treatment, no more.

No chance for them to leak into environments

And encourage bacteria mutation galore.

The world has changed so much from when

It was first declared “post-antibiotic”.

Looking at it now, I’m proud and glad

But another problem’s making me neurotic…

Even as far as we’ve come, it’s still not enough

There’s still nothing I can do.

My chances are low, my days are numbered

I’m down with a bad MDR flu.*

Already nurses have told me twice

“We thought we’d really lost you.”

Saved by miracles and too-potent drugs

But I know my time will come soon.

Perhaps the world will forever stay

In this post-antibiotic state we’re in.

I have my doubts, now looking back

That antibiotics were never meant to be

The perfect answer for everything

Nor some ever-lasting cure.

Even if we’d treated this treasure more wisely

Drug resistances would still (but more slowly) appear…

As my time nears, I wonder: Will the world ever recover?

Will antibiotics return to the miracle they once were?

Will we find something else to kill bacteria, perhaps?

…would I have lived if I’d been born decades earlier?

*XDR: extensively drug-resistant

MDR: multidrug-resistant

MRSA: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

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