How Globalization Affects the Spread & Treatment of Pathogens

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  • 0:00 Globalization
  • 0:47 The Spread of Pathogens
  • 2:16 The Treatment of Pathogens
  • 4:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Globalization can be a really good thing and a terrible thing at the same time. This is true about its impact on everything from culture to disease, the latter of which is discussed in this lesson.


When you travel the world, be it for business or pleasure, you are part of and contribute to globalization! Globalization is the integration and development of people, nations, politics, cultures, and socioeconomics into a larger international community.

Globalization has come about as a result of our ability to travel all over the world relatively quickly and to communicate with one another by phone, video, text, and internet almost instantly. It has many upsides, such as efficiency in the exchange of ideas, and many downsides, such as the extinction of distinct cultural identities.

Another downside is that globalization plays a big role in the spread and treatment of pathogens, disease-causing agents, like bacteria and viruses. This lesson explains how this is so.

The Spread of Pathogens

A long time ago, when civilization didn't exist, we lived in relatively secluded tribes or groups. Contact with many of our neighbors was limited because we had no means by which to travel over huge areas of land as quickly and efficiently as we do today. Furthermore, fewer people existed to have contact with in the first place. This meant that if one group member caught a deadly virus, then most likely, those placed at risk of death by catching the same virus would be the tribal members only.

Nowadays, things are very different. One sick person can cause a huge domino effect where tens, hundreds, even thousands of people or more can become infected. Not only because population density has increased, allowing for more people to become infected, but also because a person with a disease can get on a plane, train, or automobile and carry this disease to parts of the world that would otherwise have never been exposed to it!

I'll give you a notable case of this in the real world. The 2009 swine flu pandemic of Mexico. In short, the first confirmed cases of this virus appeared in Mexico. Then it spread from Mexico to a cross-border city into the U.S. From there, it spread beyond to New York. Travelers to and from Mexico got infected when traveling back home or to other parts of the world, respectively, and this spread the virus all over the world in a matter of weeks. This speedy spread of disease would've been unthinkable even a couple hundred years ago.

The Treatment of Pathogens

But the story of globalization and pathogens doesn't end here. Not only can pathogens use our system of transportation to spread quickly and easily all over the world, they take advantage of inappropriate treatment strategies found in some parts of the world to hurt everyone all over the world!

Here's what I mean. Whether due to lack of funding, education, or care, many places around the world (most notably in second- and third-world countries) use antibiotics, drugs that kill bacteria, inappropriately. This is most often manifested by using antibiotics for a shorter period of time than necessary or using the wrong kind of antibiotic.

What does this mean to us? If such a scenario arises, not all of the bacteria are killed by the antibiotic. The strong ones, the ones that would've been killed had the treatment continued for a longer amount of time, survive. The strong ones pass on their genes, genes which allow for future generations of the same bacteria to beat back many antibiotics, a concept called multi-drug resistance.

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