Failing drugs deliver a dose of danger
Experts warn of a 'post-antibiotic apocalypse' as study paints a shocking picture of resistance to medicine
Antibiotics are now failing to work in a fifth of patients who suffer an infection after hospital surgery, according to the first major study investigating the crisis.
The global research, published by the Lancet, found that one in eight patients undergoing common procedures such as appendix removal developed an infection while recovering. And 22% of cases were found to be resistant to the antibiotics that should have protected them.
The study, led by the University of Edinburgh, tracked more than 13,000 patients in 66 countries who were having gastrointestinal surgery.
The new research – the first such detailed study to track the subject on such a scale – found levels of antibiotic resistance were highest in the poorest countries, where they were most frequently doled out.In such countries, almost a quarter of patients developed an infection, and 36% of these were found to be resistant to drugs.
While the figures were lower in more affluent parts of the world, including the UK, high-income countries still saw almost one in 10 patients undergoing such operations end up with an infection.
And of those, 17% were found to be antibiotic-resistant.
Lead researcher Dr Ewen Harrison said resistance across the globe was being fuelled by high levels of over-prescribing, especially in developing countries.
“We really should be worried about this. We need to be much smarter about only using antibiotics when they are needed, not as a precaution. These organisms are not confined by country borders, so it takes global action to address this,” he added.Despite major concerns about the spread of antibiotic resistance, until now there was a lack of detailed evidence examining links between prescribing habits and antibiotic resistance globally, he said.
In October, Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, warned that Britain could face a “post-antibiotic apocalypse”, without swift action to cut needless use of such drugs.
It came as health officials launched a national campaign urging patients not to demand antibiotics, as part of global efforts to restrict use of the drugs.
The chief medical officer said patients often thought GPs were “being mean” when they refused them drugs, when in fact they were doing their best to conserve the antibiotics, so they are still available when they are truly needed.
If antibiotics lose their effectiveness it will spell “the end of modern medicine”, said Dame Sally, who added that global action to cut antibiotic use had been far too slow.
— © The Daily Telegraph