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Divining without SeedsThe Case for Strengthening Laboratory Medicine in Africa$
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Iruka N. Okeke

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449413

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449413.001.0001

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Drug Resistance

Drug Resistance

(p.50) 4 Drug Resistance
Divining without Seeds

Iruka N. Okeke

Cornell University Press

This chapter focuses on drug resistance, the long-term and deleterious consequence of overusing antimalarial and antibacterial medicines. Drug-resistant malaria is representative of a fundamental problem in twentieth-century approaches to treating infectious disease. At the height of European colonization of Africa, insecticides and antimicrobials were seen as cheap solutions to infection and infestation, so colonial medical systems deemed it superfluous to invest in the public health resources that had dealt with these problems in Europe and North America a century before. Within weeks of European health teams' arrival at some Nigerian villages, everyone had received penicillin in an attempt to eliminate yaws. Sulfa drugs were mass distributed in northern West Africa, across the meningitis belt, to ward off meningococcal meningitis, and the antibiotic tetracycline was widely distributed as a cholera panacea in East Africa. Chloroquine, one of the most effective antimalarials of all time, was disseminated everywhere the disease was endemic. Both in and outside Africa, the belief that pharmaceutical innovation was sufficiently robust to overcome the problem delayed efforts to avoid or limit drug resistance. Not until the 1980s did scientists, clinicians, and health policymakers admit that microbes were winning the war against infectious disease.

Keywords:   malaria, infectious disease, drug resistance, Africa, antimicrobials, antimalarial drugs

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