Antibiotics crisis 'will mean routine infections are fatal'

 

The world faces a future without cures for infection, in which even a minor injury or a routine operation could prove fatal, the Chief Medical Officer has warned.

Professor Dame Sally Davies said rapidly evolving resistance to antibiotics among bacteria is one of the greatest threats to modern health. “Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversible – similar to global warming,” she said. “Bacteria are adapting and finding ways to survive the effects of antibiotics, ultimately becoming resistant so they no longer work.”

The warning comes six months after a similar call by Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organisation, who said the world faced the “end of modern medicine as we know it” as a result of the “global crisis in antibiotics”.

An estimated 25,000 people die each year in the European Union from antibiotic resistant bacterial infections.

Britain has seen a sharp rise in cases of blood poisoning caused by E.coli since 2005 and those resistant to antibiotics have increased from 1 per cent a decade ago to 10 per cent.

A recent study suggested deaths could double in patients with multi-drug resistant E.coli, according to the Department of Health.

The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention says today that there has been a “significant increasing trend” of resistance to multiple antibiotics, including carbapenems – the last line of defence for the treatment of resistant infections. Carbapenem-resistant bugs were first detected in Greece in 2009 but have since spread across Europe and consumption of the antibiotics is increasing.

“For patients infected with [resistant] bacteria, few last line antibiotics, like carbapenems, remain available,” said Marc Sprenger, director of the ECDC. Speaking ahead of Antibiotic Awareness Day on Sunday, Professor Davies said urgent action is needed in the UK, across Europe and the rest of the world to ensure antibiotics are used “in the right way, at the right dose and the right time” to slow the development of antibiotic resistance.

Developing new antibiotics to treat resistant superbugs has proved increasingly difficult and costly with limited commercial returns as they are taken only for a short period. The pipeline of new drugs is almost dry.

Dr Cliodna McNulty, of the UK Health Protection Agency, urged patients not to expect antibiotics for minor infections such as coughs and colds: “GP patients who have had antibiotics in the last 6 months are twice as likely to have an infection with resistant bacteria. This is why it is very important that we preserve the antibiotics that we have by not prescribing them where they are not necessary so that they are effective when we really do need them.”

The Department of Health said an untreatable form of gonorrhoea, the sexually transmitted disease which infects more than 100 million people globally, was spreading across the world and had been detected in Britain. The WHO warned last June that millions of patients could run out of treatment options if resistant gonorrhoea spread. Almost 21,000 cases of gonorrhoea were reported in the UK in 2011, a 25 per cent rise on 2010.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

    £37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

    Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

    £25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

    £16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones