Next World Health Epidemic: Antibiotic Drug Resistance
(MintPress) – Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, announced some alarming news this week regarding antibiotics: “Bacteria are adapting and finding ways to survive the effects of antibiotics, ultimately becoming resistant so they no longer work.”
Davies told a committee of England’s Members of Parliament (MPs), that going for a routine operation could become deadly due to the threat of infection, and went so far as to compare the findings to be more, if not as threatening, to humanity as global warming.
“It is clear that we might not ever see global warming, the apocalyptic scenario is that when I need a new hip in 20 years I’ll die from a routine infection because we’ve run out of antibiotics,” she said.
Antibiotics were once one of medicine’s greatest success stories, but as bacteria adapts and becomes resistant to this type of treatment, medical professionals are scrambling to find new solutions.
The World Health Organization has also warned world leaders and medical professionals about a “post-antibiotic era” since April 2011, saying that unless something is done about the situation, “many common infections will no longer have a cure and, once again, kill unabated.”
E.coli, tuberculosis and gonorrhea are among illnesses that are currently most resistant to antibiotic treatments. Davies says there is currently only one useful antibiotic left to treat gonorrhea.
“It is very serious, and it’s very serious because we are not using our antibiotics effectively in countries,” she said.
Professor Hugh Pennington, a microbiologist from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, agrees with Davies. “We do need to pay much more attention to it. We need resources for surveillance, resources to cope with the problem and to get public information across.”
Even though the World Health Organization called for pharmaceutical companies around the world to develop new antibiotic drugs, just four of the world’s largest 12 pharmaceutical companies are investing in researching new antibiotics.
As Pennington told the BBC, part of the problem in finding a solution is that the drug companies have already made all of the easy fixes. “We have to be aware that we aren’t going to have new wonder drugs coming along because there just aren’t any.”
Davies disagrees that finding an easy solution is the problem and instead believes pharmaceutical companies are not investing in new antibiotics because it’s not as profitable as other drugs. “There is a broken market model for making new antibiotics,” which has led to an “empty pipeline,” Davies said.
Davies plans to list possible solutions to the antibiotic crisis in her annual report, which will be published in March.
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