Government Saving Lives

Exciting news on the medical front, as reported by the New York Times‘ Denise Grady:

An unusual method for producing antibiotics may help solve an urgent global problem: the rise in infections that resist treatment with commonly used drugs, and the lack of new antibiotics to replace ones that no longer work.

The method, which extracts drugs from bacteria that live in dirt, has yielded a powerful new antibiotic, researchers reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday. The new drug, teixobactin, was tested in mice and easily cured severe infections, with no side effects.

Better still, the researchers said, the drug works in a way that makes it very unlikely that bacteria will become resistant to it. And the method developed to produce the drug has the potential to unlock a trove of natural compounds to fight infections and cancer — molecules that were previously beyond scientists’ reach because the microbes that produce them could not be grown in the laboratory.

You have to read down a good ways for this small note on the findings’ origins, and might even miss it:

[T]he research was paid for by the National Institutes of Health and the German government (some co-authors work at the University of Bonn).

Yeah, government is sometimes not only competent, but is competent in crucial, life-saving ways. That’s central to the discussion we are trying to promote in the new issue of the Washington Monthly, and it’s something even the crudest of anti-government demagogues ought to be able to understand.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.