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NIH Record  
Vol. LXVI, No. 16
  August 1, 2014
New Studies May Help Us Understand, Predict Suicidal Thoughts, Behavior
Glied Talks Affordable Care Act, Mental Health Parity at NIMH Outreach Meeting
First CRC Patient’s Genetic Disease Unraveled
6100 Exec. Blvd. Reopens
Architect Revisits NIEHS Campus He Helped Create More Than 30 Years Ago
National Climate Assessment Addresses Human Health
Grady Emphasizes ‘Translational Science’ at AACN Summit
Annual APAO Food Fair Is a Success
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Thinning the Herd
The Battle to End Antibiotic Use in Farm Agriculture

Maryn McKenna gives a recent NLM History of Medicine Lecture.
Maryn McKenna gives a recent NLM History of Medicine Lecture.
During his 1945 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Sir Alexander Fleming—who’d inadvertently discovered penicillin—warned against misusing antibiotics. “It is not difficult to make microbes resistant to penicillin in the laboratory by exposing them to concentrations not sufficient to kill them, and the same thing has occasionally happened in the body,” he said. “There is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug, make them resistant.” Despite this foreshadowing, Fleming’s cautionary words went unheeded for decades.

While antibiotics have been a life-saving modern miracle, antibiotic resistance has threatened the existence of this precious commodity. The global widespread use of antibiotics in livestock has propagated this threat by breeding antibiotic-resistant microbes that can infect and kill people while rendering these drugs ineffective at treating the infections they were designed to cure.

“Even allowing for how new the antibiotic era was and how new these drugs were, and for the incredible enthusiasm with which they were being pursued around the world, it’s really surprising for me to look back and see the degree to which any evidence of possible unintended consequences was simply dismissed,” said Maryn McKenna, senior fellow, Schuster Center for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis, at her recent NLM History of Medicine Lecture “Losing the Miracle: Agriculture, FDA and the Controversy over Farm Antibiotics.”


A Technology Turnaround
Australian Scientist Goes from Bionic Ear To Bionic Eye

Thirty-six years ago, when Australian scientist (and 2013 Lasker Award winner) Dr. Graeme M. Clark did the first multi-channel cochlear implant in a human subject, it marked the beginning of a new method to treat people who had lost their hearing as a result of congenital deafness, injury or disease. Since then, more than 300,000 people worldwide have been fitted with a cochlear implant, including infants who are now allowed to be implanted as early as 6 months. This success has helped spur the development of other devices that substitute for lost motor, sensory or cognitive function such as neuromodulation devices that treat chronic pain and deep brain stimulators that reduce tremor and muscle rigidity in Parkinson’s disease.

Recently, the NEI International Vision Research program, along with the Fogarty International Center and the NIH global health interest group, hosted a talk by a scientist on Clark’s original team, Dr. Robert Shepherd, a longtime NIH grantee who is now director of the Bionics Institute of Australia and head of the medical bionics department at the University of Melbourne. The institute and its research partners in Bionic Vision Australia were recently awarded a $10 million grant from the Australian government to further develop a visual prosthesis, or “bionic eye,” to restore useful vision to blind patients.