Horsefly infestation brought by UK heatwave bring risk of potentially deadly bites, charity warns

'It is entirely possible in 2018 that you can die of an insect bite, not just in some hot foreign clime, but here in Britain,' said Antibiotic Research UK chief

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Bloodsucking horseflies are on the rise as Britain swelters under its longest heatwave for 40 years – and charities are warning that their bites can lead to potentially deadly infections.

The increasing temperatures have seen swarms of clegs – or horseflies – in the UK reach Mediterranean levels raising the risk of serious bacterial infections, according to Antibiotic Research UK (ANTRUK).

Females feed on blood and bites can leave painful swelling which may take a long time to heal and can easily become infected, particularly if scratched.

Lingering, painful bites from invasive insects can easily become infected charity warns

“It is entirely possible in 2018 that you can die of an insect bite, not just in some hot foreign clime, but here in Britain,” the charity’s chief executive, Professor Colin Garner, said.

“We have not invested in the kinds of antibiotics we need to keep up with devious and ever-changing bacterial infections."

The effects of an infected horsefly bite can include a raised and nasty rash, dizziness, shortage of breath, and weak and swollen limbs.

The UK government’s leading medical adviser has repeatedly called for action to forestall the spread of resistance, and avoid a “post-antibiotic apocalypse“. Risks are greatest for people with a weakened immune system and if drugs don’t work then minor cuts could rapidly become serious, leading to amputations or worse.

Current treatments include antihistamine and steroid creams and in serious cases, broad-spectrum antibiotics.

But with resistance on the rise it can be difficult to find the right treatment to fight infections, and in some cases this has resulted in the threat of amputation or death.

Professor Garner added: “Here is a prime example of why we need to develop new medications fast to keep up with our changing climate and unexpected situations such as a horsefly bite epidemic.

“We have been warning for some time that our antibiotics are so ineffective that we could reach the situation where people will once again die from an infected scratch or bite.

“That tragic moment may just have come. I personally got bitten recently by a horsefly and it is very painful. I am self-medicating with creams and an oral antihistamine tablet to ensure the bite site does not become infected.”

NHS guidance advises visiting your GP if an insect bite results in symptoms of an infection such as pus, increased pain, redness and swelling.

ANTRUK wants to see the government, drugs companies, research charities and even members of the public who are still intent on demanding antibiotics from their doctor, to work together to avoid antibiotic resistance.

Additional reporting by PA

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