Stuart Blank Levy, a physician and microbiologist who with his twin brother Jay graduated from PS du Pont High School and went on to be one of the leading medical researchers of his generation, passed away in Boston last month at the age of 80. His daughter Suzanne Levy Friedman said he had suffered from Parkinson’s disease.
The Washington Post said that Levy “sounded the alarm on the dangers of antibiotic resistance, demonstrating that drugs routinely given to fatten farm animals posed a threat to human health.”
“Long before “superbugs” became a buzzword for drug-resistant bacteria,” the Post wrote, “Dr. Levy was researching and drawing attention to the issue … which the World Health Organization labeled a “major threat to public health” in 2014.”
Levy, who taught at Tufts University School of Medicine for 47 years before retiring in 2018, first publicly flagged the risks of antibiotic resistance in a seminal 1976 paper showing that chickens raised on feed with antibiotics developed drug-resistant bacteria that were transferred to farmers. The paper led to the US Food and Drug Administration attempting to ban the use of growth-promoting antibiotics, a move that faced resistance from business groups and never went into effect.
Levy and his identical twin brother Jay and their sister Ellen grew up in Brandywine Hundred’s Carrcroft neighborhood, the son of physician Charles Levy and his wife Ruth, a homemaker.
Jay Levy is an AIDS and cancer researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who is credited with independently discovering the AIDS virus, HIV, in 1983. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has advised countries including China, India, France and Mexico on AIDS.
Stewart Levy advocated “prudent use” of antibiotics, forming the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics and persuading 147 scientists from 27 countries to sign a statement advising caution on their overuse. He was a co-founder of Paratek Pharmaceuticals, authored over 300 publications and received countless accolades for his achievements throughout his career. After high school in Wilmington, he attended Williams College in Massachusetts and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.
The Post obituary recounted a story about the brother’s sense of humor, saying they once “executed an unannounced identity switch for one week in college, with Stuart attending Wesleyan … in Connecticut while Jay took his place at Williams.”