Britain warns of ‘apocalyptic threat’ from antibiotic-resistant diseases

Bacteria CultureWe have all heard the frightening reports about the growing number of antibiotic-resistant infections plaguing the medical community, MRSA being one that particularly scares the hell out of me.

Now, an article in London’s The Guardian reported that England’s top medical official has asked members of Parliament to add antibiotic-resistant diseases to the government’s “national risk register of civil emergencies,” along with disasters like a “catastrophic terrorist attack, pandemic flu or major coastal flooding.”

“There are few public health issues of potentially greater importance for society than antibiotic resistance,” Dame Sally Davies, England’s leading medical advisor, told The Guardian, describing an “apocalyptic scenario” if people begin to die from routine infections contracted during common medical procedures.

About “80% of gonorrhea was now resistant to the frontline antibiotic tetracycline, and infections were rising in young and middle-aged people. Multi-drug resistant TB was also a major threat,” Davies said.

The over-prescribing antibiotics, patients’ misuse of them and the lack of new antibiotics being developed by pharmaceutical companies are serious concerns, Alan Johnson, a scientist with Britain’s’ Health Protection Agency, adding:

In the past, most people haven’t worried because we’ve always had new antibiotics to turn to. What has changed is that the development pipeline is running dry. We don’t have new antibiotics that we can rely on in the immediate future or in the longer term.

We are becoming increasingly reliant on antibiotics in a whole range of areas of medicine. If we don’t have new antibiotics to deal with the problems of resistance we see, we are going to be in serious trouble.

Davies added that the dwindling supply of new antibiotics is caused in part by pharmaceutical companies spending most of their resources and time developing drugs for “chronic conditions, such as heart disease,” because that’s where the profits lie.

U.S. health officials are calling for doctors to stop prescribing antibiotics for every sniffle and sneeze, and I know I am guilty of not always finishing a course of antibiotics as prescribed. However, I plan to heed the warning and be more conscious of antibiotic use and misuse.

Read The Guardian report here.


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