An Article by Daniel Link (JC 2)
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” How might this old proverb be said to apply to the role of modern medicine in the world today?
In the old times, traditional medicines were very common, people may think of them as outlandish, but in truth, they have multiple uses which include the prevention of illness. Modern medicine, however, is different, the focus is not on prevention but on cures of diseases; of which there are new strains of bacteria, viruses and pathogens discovered on a daily basis. If a disease is prevented from spreading, a cure would be less of a priority, and cures are expensive to develop. Prevention has more worth than a cure; it spares needless suffering and great amounts of resources, compared to developing cures.
Modern medicine is extremely expensive to develop, not only in terms of money but also in time. There are many tiers of steps in the development of a cure, prior to it being prescribed to the public. First, actual research has to be done into the making of a cure; what it is made up of, where the ingredients come from and how to produce it. Only then can production of prototypes begin, this process can take many months.
The next step is testing on live tissue samples of animals and data collection of the results; which needs to be given to the government for approval. Then, actual testing using small animals like rodents, and again, the results need to be given to the government. If the testing passes to the next stage, the same process goes on for human trials. Small groups of usually 1-2 people, then a larger group of 50-100 people, and finally testing of 5,000-10,000 people. Only after the government approves of the new drug, can it be produced. These total steps can take up to 15 years.
The problem nowadays is that diseases never stop developing, and when a cure for a disease has been approved, it may already be resistant, so a new cure has to be created. Antibiotic resistance is one such example; when bacteria become resistant to an antibiotic through random chance of mutation, a new antibiotic needs to be created. When a person takes these antibiotics but does not complete the period of prescription, the bacteria will grow resistant; and this cycle goes on for an infinite amount of time.
Prevention has more worth humanely as well as economically. Putting attention here prevents suffering of not only humans, but animals through testing as well. There are many ways to prevent the spread of a disease: vaccination, isolation, eradication, and sanitation; each of these working in their own way. Vaccination uses a weak, non-infectious strain of the disease. It is injected into the body, which causes an immune response. During this time, the immune system tries to keep information of the disease by creating cells called T-memory cells. When the real infectious disease infects a host; the disease will be destroyed much faster, giving immunity.
Isolation of infected patients removes mediums of transportation; which effectively stops the spread of a disease. In eradication, the disease is stopped from infecting people by killing its host. In malaria, the host is a certain type of mosquito. By venting an eradication gas into areas of high mosquito population, the disease will be removed. By adding air filters and water purifiers to a building, airborne and waterborne diseases can be stopped from spreading. Most diseases are either airborne, waterborne or foodborne. For foodborne diseases, one can be sure that one eats only fresh food from sterile markets.
In the future, the ways of dealing with diseases may be completely different; we may be able to possibly halt diseases through genetic modification of the human genome, instead of running animal and human tests; technology may even exist for an advanced real-life simulation. However in the meantime that future has not yet come, but by combining both preventative measures and continuing the ongoing procedures to find cures; the battle to eradicate disease can be better fought.