Returning from a hard day’s work at the excavations of Tutankhamen’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in March 1923, George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, took the top off a recent mosquito bite whilst shaving in the bathroom of his suite at the Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor. Overwhelmed by bacteria, he died in Cairo just over two weeks later.
Some put it down to the ‘Mummy’s Curse’, but whatever the cause, he was vulnerable, as all humanity was before the advent of antibiotics, to accidental and catastrophic bacterial infection.
Until last week we were led to believe that we would all have to be more careful shaving, as bacteria learn resistance to antibiotics and graduate to superbugdom. The age of antibiotics was said to be approaching its end.
So, it’s wonderful news that the first new class of antibiotics for thirty years has been discovered and has proved effective in mice. There may even be plenty more where this class comes from (soil), and they may be of a type that bacteria won’t so easily acquire resistance to.
It’s true that we don’t yet know if this substance will work on humans, but if not this time, and this type, then another time and type.
I am an optimist, and this announcement encourages me. The world has become a much better place over the last few decades and it goes on getting better. I have boundless faith in human ingenuity. I believe even the miseries of cancer and other medical horrors might one day be things of the past (though the miseries of human unpleasantness may prove more intractable).
But whilst the world is getting better, it’s also getting warmer. If we’re quick enough though, perhaps we’ll even solve that problem. Controlled nuclear fusion is on the way (just another decade or two), and then, surely, there will be enough green (nuclear) energy to power vast arrays of air conditioners blasting cold air into the skies. Or something similar.