Question 11 - Reading Practice Test for the ACT

What is the purpose of this passage?

This is a passage on a scientific topic.

Living In a Post-Antibiotic World

Following the release of the CDC’s overview regarding antibiotics and their use in conventional medicine, readers can reach one conclusion: a post-antibiotic world is one to be feared. As fewer new antibiotics are created, and the increasing use of antibiotics is sustained, more and more bacteria are developing resistance to antibiotic treatment, including a strand of bacteria found in New Zealand in January of 2013. This is a substantial find for the future of medicine, as it suggests that the world as we know it may be heading toward a potentially cataclysmic stage in which antibiotics are ineffective, and a simple head cold is capable of extreme destruction.

What does this mean for conventional medicine? Antibiotics are used in virtually every facet of modern medicine. Ear infections, common ailments among the young, are treated with antibiotics. Surgery requires first lowering the body’s defenses through antibiotic administration to prevent the body’s rejection of any implements or implants used. Modern medicine is thoroughly steeped in antibiotic use, and would not function as the world knows today without the assistance of antibiotic drugs. For this reason, illnesses common in today’s world and regarded with nonchalance such as a cold, the flu, or an ear infection could easily prove deadly to those afflicted, and may even usher in a new age of past or third-world illnesses, including variations of the plague, fever, and malaria.

Modern medicine is not the only affected industry, however; because most modern food sources strive to provide large quantities of food quickly, all food industries have become heavily reliant upon antibiotic use. This is certainly the case for those raising livestock of any kind, ranging from cows, to pigs, to chickens. These animals are typically fed a steady diet of antibiotics, as these allow the animals to be grouped together in smaller quarters, and fed a diet encouraging quick and easy fat production. Without antibiotics, the cost of red meat, fish, and poultry would all likely skyrocket, rendering meat of any kind a precious commodity. Similarly, many fruits and plants are treated with antibiotics to stave off bacterial contamination that would render entire crops inedible. A post-antibiotic era would force the entire food industry to raise prices due to lower production and a greater likelihood of failure.

While these revelations are certainly alarming, a seemingly post-antibiotic world can be ushered in with grace—given the immediate action taken by scientists and doctors alike. Given the time and funding, doctors and scientists may be able to do several things to ward off the dangers of a post-antibiotic era. These include developing newer antibiotic strains—a practice that has long been all but abandoned due to its high cost and low profit yield—and developing greater research regarding new strains of bacteria resistant to most antibiotics. While these steps may seem small or easy, both require high levels of funding in a time where funding is increasingly difficult to come by.

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