The United States Food and Drug Administration has officially approved Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.’s (Johnson & Johnson) ’Levaquin’, an antibacterial agent called levofloxacin, as able to combat the “Plague” caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis which is famous for having annihilated over half of Europe’s entire population in the past. Although the illness is extremely rare nowadays, over 2,000 cases arise per year around the world.
Before the approval was gained, a study involving experimentation on African green monkeys was carried out. Of the 17 monkeys given Levaquin, 94% survived while none of the monkeys who received placebo didn’t survive.
Though primarily found in animals, the bacterium can infect humans by ravaging the lungs, lymph nodes or other parts of the body which can possibly end in death.
Side effects of Levaquin may include headaches, diarrhea, insomnia, constipation & nausea while the more serious but rare side effects include liver damage, allergic reactions and abnormalities in the nervous system. The drug itself has been the subject of controversy when it caused toxicity in numerous consumers.
Besides levofloxacin, there are other available antibacterial treatments for infection such as tetracycline, doxycycline and streptomycin.
(Cover: Woodcut from “Dance of Death,” by Michael Wolgernut (1493))