Without new antibiotics, growing resistance a ‘ticking time bomb’
Drawing parallels to threats of terrorism and even the apocalypse, the United Kingdom’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies, said that a growing resistance to antibiotics may lead to a major health crisis.
Davies warned in a recently published report that antibiotic resistance should be taken as a serious international threat, one which heralds a return to 19th century pre-penicillin death rates if action isn’t taken immediately. In fact, she says, while new bacterial diseases have been discovered over the past 30 years, no new class of antibiotics has been developed since the 1980s.
Though her message may seem extreme, U.S. physicians have long warned against over-prescribing antibiotics. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned of a deadly bacterium, carbapenem-resistant Enterbacteriaceae (CRE), which is resistant to nearly all antibiotics.
“This is absolutely a concern. Drug-resistant diseases are increasing on a world-wide scale,” says Dr. James Malow, infectious disease specialist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “And it’s true—there are no new antibiotics in the pharmaceutical pipeline.”
Government agencies are currently researching new antibiotics, Dr. Malow says, but that will take time. Meanwhile, many hospitals and health care systems like Oak Brook based Advocate Health Care are already taking action to do what they can to curb the resistance problem by developing antibiotic stewardship programs. Dr. Malow says other hospitals should be working toward establishing the same type programs to help slow the widespread use and possible misuse of the drugs.
Antibiotic stewardship programs and interventions set strict guidelines on the prescription of antibiotics in the hospital, according to the CDC. The measures ensure “patients get the right antibiotics at the right time for the right duration.”
Dr. Malow says judicious and correct use of our current antibiotics, on local and even global scales, will help lengthen and strengthen the drugs’ effectiveness.
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