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New Warnings Today About The World’s Antibiotics: We Could Be Facing An “Apocalyptic Scenario”
January 24, 2013
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Ever get the feeling that, as a planet, we're totally screwed? Well, this piece of news isn't going to help.

England's chief medical officer issued a troubling warning today about the world's supply of antibiotics.

They're not working as well as they used to.

Sally Davies told a committee of MPs that, more and more, bacteria are becoming resistant to current drugs, and there are few antibiotics to replace them.

Davies said the situation is so serious, it's comparable to global warming. And she said the world could be facing an "apocalyptic scenario".

To put it another way, she suggested that going for a standard operation could end up being quite dangerous.

"It is clear that we might never see global warming," she said. "The apocalyptic scenario is that, if I need a new hip in 20 years, I'll die from a routine infection because we've run out of antibiotics."

Of course, antibiotics are a wonder of modern medicine. Trouble is, bacteria and viruses find ways to adapt and resist them.

Basically, antibiotics will get rid of a potential infection, but sometimes more resilient strains of bacteria survive.

The survivors then multiply, and over time, they can't be destroyed by commonly effective antibiotics.

"It is very serious, and it's very serious because we are not using our antibiotics effectively in countries," Davies said.

"There is a broken market model for making new antibiotics, so it's an empty pipeline, so as they (bacteria) become resistant... there will not be new antibiotics to come."


Davies used gonorrhea as an example.

She said that 80 per cent of cases are now resistant to antibiotics, with only one useful drug left to treat it. Not only that, but infections are rising in young and middle-aged people.

Davies also warned that tuberculosis is set to become a major health threat.

Right now, there are 440,000 new cases of drug-resistant TB around the world every year, which kill 150,000 people.

A superbug known as MRSA has become a big problem in hospitals, and there are increasing reports of E. coli strains becoming resistant.

As well, some bacteria are becoming resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics.

The Guardian points out a couple of problems.

For one, it says "Changes in modern medicine have exacerbated the problem by making patients more susceptible to infections."

"For example, cancer treatments weaken the immune system, and the use of catheters increases the chances of bugs entering the bloodstream."

As for why we don't have many new antibiotics, the Guardian suggests "drug companies see greater profits in medicines that treat chronic conditions, such as heart disease, which patients must take for years or even decades."


The World Health Organization has put out similar warnings, saying "many common infections will no longer have a cure and, once again, kill unabated".

Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO, told International Business Times...

"If trends continue unabated, the future is easy to predict. Some experts say we are moving back to the pre-antibiotic era. No. This will be a post-antibiotic era."

"In terms of new replacement antibiotics, the pipeline is virtually dry, especially for gram-negative bacteria. The cupboard is nearly bare."

"A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill."

Davies is publishing a report in March, where she plans to outline a new cross-government strategy and action plan.

For now, she's called for the issue to be added to the British government's national risk register of civil emergencies.

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