Superbug scenario: Antibiotic resistance will be ‘catastrophe’ on par with terrorism

6090health medicine superbugs antibiotics Superbug scenario: Antibiotic resistance will be ‘catastrophe’ on par with terrorism

Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, saidaction is urgently needed to fight antibiotic and antimicrobialresistance and that new drugs must be developed to treat newmutating infections.She warned that if nothing is done to reverse the situationBritain would face an apocalyptic scenario with “a health systemnot dissimilar from the 19th century.”Two months ago Dame Davies warned Britishlegislators that antibiotic resistance should be added to the UK’snational risk register. The register was set up in 2008 to advisethe public and businesses on national emergencies that the UK couldface in the next five years.The highest risks currently on the list include a catastrophicterrorist attack, a flu pandemic and coastal flooding, as was seenduring the 1952 North Sea flood, the last time a national emergencywas called in the UK.As bacterial infections evolve into ‘superbugs’ like MRSA, whichare resistant to existing drugs, more must be done discover newantibiotics. Only a few antibiotics have been discovered in thelast few decades.“Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat. If wedon’t act now any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years forminor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can’tbe treated by antibiotics, And routine operations like hipreplacements or organ transplants could be deadly because of therisk of infection,” Davies told reporters as she published herreport on infectious disease.Untreatable superbugs are popping up all over the world. Asuperbug with a mutation known as NDM 1, which was first detectedin India, has now turned up in most other countries. There havealso been cases of a totally drug-resistant form of tuberculosisand the World Health Organization (WHO) said an untreatable form ofgonorrhea was spreading round the world.MRSA, one of the best known superbugs, is estimated to kill19,000 people every year in the US and a similar number in Europe,far more than HIV and AIDS.Davies’s research has been welcomed by scientists and medicalprofessionals.“There are an increasing number of infections for which thereare virtually no therapeutic options. And we desperately need newdiscovery, research and development,” Laura Piddock, professorof microbiology at Birmingham University and director of AntibioticAction, a campaign group, told Reuters.Davies has called for better cooperation between thepharmaceutical and healthcare industries in order to focus ondeveloping new antibiotics as well as preserving the arsenal ofexisting ones.She also called on governments to take the threat seriously andsuggested the WHO and the G8 encourage more innovation in the fieldof antibiotics.“Over the past two decades there has been a discovery voidaround antibiotics, meaning diseases have evolved faster than thedrugs to treat them,” said Davies.Although a small number of new individual drugs are beingdeveloped, no new classes of antibiotics have been developed since1987. The main reason, explains Davies, is that is there littlemoney to be made in developing new courses of antibiotics.She added that more effort should be made by doctors toprescribe antibiotics only when needed and that hygiene should beimproved in hospitals to make sure infections were kept to aminimum.Keith Ridge, the UK government’s chief pharmaceutical officer,said that although the number of antibiotics prescribed in hospitalhad fallen, there still needed to be tighter control of antibioticprescriptions in GP’s surgeries.“We need new ways to kill resistant bacteria or reduce theircarriage of resistant genes. Novel approaches that might haveappeared unrealistic a few years ago need to be explored,”Professor Christopher Thomas, professor of molecular genetics atthe University of Birmingham, told the Independent.The WHO made drug resistance the focus of its 2011 World HealthDay, warning the“world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, inwhich many common infections will no longer have a cure and, onceagain, kill unabated.”

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Superbug scenario: Antibiotic resistance will be ‘catastrophe’ on par with terrorism


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