Excess and inappropriate use of antibiotics needs to be curbed because antibiotic resistant infections are increasing "at an alarming pace," public health experts say.
To mark global Antibiotic Awareness Week, The Lancet Infectious Diseases published an editorial and six commentaries by medical experts highlighting common themes in Europe, the U.S., Canada and Australia.

"A crisis looms," the editorial begins. "In the very near and rapidly approaching future, the wonder drugs of the 20th century, antibiotics, may cease to be useful."

Antibiotic resistance

A nurse prepares a syringe during a procedure to clean the wound of an amputee patient with MRSA, one of the antibiotic resistant superbugs that worry public health experts. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

The editorial points to three factors driving antibiotic resistance:

  • Pointless prescriptions for viral infections.
  • Adding antibiotics to animal feed to boost growth of livestock.
  • Handing out antibiotics "like cough sweets in the community."

The journal editors said it will take national and international political commitment and investment to overcome the threat of antibiotic resistance and finance new drug development, which they said may need new approaches to funding, licensing and patenting.  

Non-human use of antibiotics

Most of the 100,000 to 200,000 tonnes of antibiotics manufactured every year are used in agricultural, aquaculture and veterinary sectors.

Source: The Lancet Infectious Diseases

"Without antibiotics, treatments from minor surgery to major transplants could become impossible, and health-care costs are likely to spiral as we resort to newer more expensive antibiotics and sustain longer hospital admissions," Sally Davies, the U.K.'s chief medical officer, and her co-authors said in one of the papers.

This week's campaign in Canada using social media aims to build awareness among health practitioners, animal health experts, patients, and the general public about the prudent use of antibiotics, according to one of the commentaries.
The warning is the latest on overuse and misuse of antibiotics. Last week, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said the proportion of infections resistant to carbapenems — a powerful class of antibiotics — has increased sharply in Europe in the last four years.

With files from Reuters