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Tuesday, January 18, 2022 - 16 Shevat 5782
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by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

Doctors are worried. Very worried. In increasing numbers, bacteria strains are developing resistance to nearly all known antibiotics. Virulent infections that were once limited to hospitals can now be found in the community. They affect not just the old and infirm but the young and healthy, all while treatment options become ever more limited.

Despite the investment of billions of dollars into research of new antibiotics, there has been a sharp decrease in the rate of new discoveries. In the past fifty years, since the initial discovery of penicillin, very few new antibiotics have been found.

Most antibiotics in use today are made by microbes themselves, produced to protect them from competitors. However, for each type of antibiotic in use, the "competition" develops resistance--through strategies that neutralize the antibiotic or preventing it from entering the cell. Scientists have exhausted their search for new antibiotics within the most commonly found microbes, and now search in ever-more exotic locations. There are microorganisms that live under drastic conditions, such as near volcano vents or under the deep sea, and they produce unique enzymes and chemicals to enable them to survive in these harsh environments. Some of these products may turn out to be useful as antibiotics.

And scientists have had some modest success with this approach. A new bacteria called abyssomicin was extracted from a bacteria in the actinomycete family, which dwells in sediment some 300 meters deep in the Sea of Japan. However, scientists are still awaiting the net big breakthrough, on the scale of the discovery of penicillin or X-rays.

Similar to the "brazenness" of the microbes that resist all efforts to eradicate them, we are now in a phase that our sages described (over two thousand years ago), in which all the methods that were successful up until now to resist spiritual temptation and protect the integrity of our souls and family units have been degraded. The Talmud describes our spiritual state thus: "With the advent of the footsteps of Moshiach, insolence will increase ... the wisdom of the scholars will degenerate, those who fear sin will be despised, and the truth will be lacking; the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog; a son will not feel ashamed before his father."

Our sages explain that the generation will fall so low because we are in the final stages of exile. This is the very darkest, bitterest part of exile, right before the break of dawn. However, just when it seems that things cannot possibly get any worse, there will be a dramatic breakthrough, a transformation. The final Geulah will be like the "magic bullet" that medical researchers are looking for, which will remove all spiritual illnesses while leaving us intact, body and soul.

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.



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