ABSTRACT. The virtual eradication of most infectious diseases has led to the virtual doubling of life expectancy in the UK and other high-income countries in the last century or so. The welfare gains associated with the control of infections have been enormous. The gains in poor countries have been smaller, but still significant. In high-income countries most of the increase in life expectancy preceded the antibiotics revolution. This paper emphasizes public health measures have historically been essential to control infectious diseases. The challenge currently posed by antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a serious one, accentuated by the increased use of antibiotics in both animals and humans and the lack of immediate remedies for particular superbugs. But the challenge also needs to be set in an historical context. This paper seeks to explain why the threat from AMR, though real, does not have to mean, given the appropriate policy responses, a return to “the dark ages of medicine.” pp. 142–173

Keywords: life expectancy; antimicrobial resistance; public health

How to cite: Ó Gráda, Cormac (2016), “‘Cast Back into the Dark Ages of Medicine’? What the Past Can Tell Us about the Challenge of Antimicrobial Resistance,” American Journal of Medical Research 3(1): 142–173.

Received 16 January 2016 • Received in revised form 16 February 2016
Accepted 16 February 2016 • Available online 28 February 2016


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University College Dublin;
CAGE, University of Warwick

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