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‘Cast Back Into The Dark Ages Of Medicine'? The Challenge Of Antimocrobial Resistance

Cormac Ó Gráda ()

CAGE Online Working Paper Series from Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE)

Abstract: Today people in high-income countries can expect to live about twice as long as their forebears a century ago. This huge increase in life expectancy is due in large part to the eradication or near-eradication of a whole range of potentially fatal infectious diseases. In the UK c. 1900 one such disease, tuberculosis, was responsible for one death in ten; it cut short the lives of Emily Brontë (1848, aged 30), Aubrey Beardsley (1898, aged 26), D. H. Lawrence (1930, aged 45), George Orwell (1950, aged 46), and myriad others. Measles, scarlet fever, diphtheria, and whooping cough accounted for another 6.5 per cent of British deaths, and diarrhoea and typhus carried off another 5 per cent. Today those diseases kill virtually no one in high-income countries. The share of all deaths in England and Wales due to infectious diseases dropped from nearly half in 1850 to one-third in 1900, whereas today they account for about 7 per cent, mainly elderly people succumbing to pneumonia or acute bronchitis. In high-income countries like the UK most of us can expect to succumb, not to infectious diseases, but to cancer, heart disease, and other non-contagious causes and illnesses.

Date: 2015
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