Resistant microbes threaten global catastrophe

 In this handout photo provided by the Helmholtz Center for Research on Infectious Diseases an EHEC bacteria is visible. Credit: Getty Images
In this handout photo provided by the Helmholtz Center for Research on Infectious Diseases an EHEC bacteria is visible.
Credit: Getty Images

Mutant, drug-resistant bacteria could trigger a global health catastrophe that makes diseases untreatable within 20 years, the British Chief Medical Officer (CMO) said Monday.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a ticking time-bomb for the world,” CMO Dame Sally Davies said in her annual report. “We need to work with everyone to ensure the apocalyptic scenario of widespread antimicrobial resistance does not become a reality.”

The report warns that bacteria will soon develop beyond antibiotic treatments, at which point any operation would become life-threatening as infection could not be controlled. Davies recommends that resistant bacteria be added to the National Risk Register along with threats such as terrorism, and claims it is “as important as climate change for the world”.

In Europe, over 25,000 people die each year resulting from resistant bacteria. That figure looks set to rise with powerful new strains of Tuberculosis and gut bacteria such as E Coli emerging.

In 2012, the World Health Organization described resistant bacteria as a “global public health emergency affecting all countries”, and experts agree that crisis is looming.

“Gut organisms could become so resistant that cancer treatment becomes impossible within a decade,” Dr Matthew Dryden, microbiologist at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, told Metro. “Antibiotics have been overused for 70 years and there are no more coming.”

The last class of antibiotics was produced in the 1980s, but research slowed as drug companies could make little profit on products with a short lifespan. “We need serious investment and a global response – we’re in an arms race with the bacteria,” said Society for General Microbiology President Nigel Brown.

The UK government will respond with a five-year plan which will address conservation of antibiotics and a global strategy within a month.


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