We live in an age where immunology is important for many reasons, as it is our natural defense system against infections of all types. In particular, now that antibiotics are declining in value due to over-exploitation, boosting our immune systems by vaccination against infectious diseases is likely to be critical for future generations. In all populations of humans, there are problems with the immune system caused by faulty genes. These problems often need medical intervention but are diagnosed with the help of clinical immunologists who develop and use a battery of tests to tease out the patient’s specific problems. That besides, allergy and asthma are increasingly problematic in industrialising economies, caused in part by pollution and also by the elimination of parasites such as helminthes (worm-like organisms living in and feeding on living host) and hookworms that the allergic response is primarily aimed at. Hence, the role of immunologists in diagnosing, treating and researching such disease can in no way be undermined. If treatment is inappropriate (through the use of wrong antibiotics, for instance) or delayed (due to the distance from medical care, or cost), then severe infection and loss of the eye can occur.
All over the world, antibiotics are being squandered, to increase meat, egg and milk yields, to treat mild infections in healthy people or viral infections such as influenza. The end result will be, of course, increased numbers of deaths due to bacterial infection but a more unexpected consequence will be a substantial reduction in the quality of life for people, particularly in old age. This is because operations such as heart surgery or joint replacement which are becoming commonplace, require large doses of `prophylactic’ antibiotics, to prevent post-operative infection.
Considering the fact that India is the world’s largest consumer of antibiotics and the source of several new resistant strains of bacteria, uncontrolled consumption of antibiotics is due, in part, to their easy availability on every street corner without prescription. This is both a failure of government regulation and also of public education. Neither factor is unique to India but India does excel at pharmaceutical production and the waste products of this industry, discharged into rivers and lakes, are another very potent source of antibiotic-resistant organisms.