We are facing a global pandemic of antibiotic resistance, warn experts

September 19, 2008

Vital components of modern medicine such as major surgery, organ transplantation, and cancer chemotherapy will be threatened if antibiotic resistance is not tackled urgently, warn experts on bmj.com today.

A concerted global response is needed to address rising rates of bacterial resistance caused by the use and abuse of antibiotics or "we will return to the pre-antibiotic era", write Professor Otto Cars and colleagues in an editorial.

All antibiotic use "uses up" some of the effectiveness of that antibiotic, diminishing the ability to use it in the future, write the authors, and antibiotics can no longer be considered as a renewable source.

They point out that existing antibiotics are losing their effect at an alarming pace, while the development of new antibiotics is declining. More than a dozen new classes of antibiotics were developed between 1930 and 1970, but only two new classes have been developed since then.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the most important disease threat in Europe is from micro-organisms that have become resistant to antibiotics. As far back as 2000, the World Health Organisation was calling for a massive effort to address the problem of antimicrobial resistance to prevent the "health catastrophe of tomorrow".

So why has so little been done to address the problem of resistance, ask the authors?

Antibiotics are over prescribed, still illegally sold over the counter in some EU countries, and self medication with leftover medicines is commonplace.

There are alarming reports about serious consequences of antibiotic resistance from all around the world. However, there is still a dearth of data on the magnitude and burden of antibiotic resistance, or its economic impact on individuals, health care, and society. This, they suggest, may explain why there has been little response to this public health threat from politicians, public health workers, and consumers.

In addition, there are significant scientific challenges but few incentives to developing new antibiotics, state the authors.

The authors believe that priority must be given to the most urgently needed antibiotics and incentives given for developing antibacterials with new mechanisms of action. In addition, "the use of new antibiotics must be safeguarded by regulations and practices that ensure rational use, to avoid repeating the mistakes we have made by overusing the old ones", they say.

They point out that reducing consumer demand could be the strongest force to driving change—individuals must be educated to understand that their choice to use an antibiotic will affect the possibility of effectively treating bacterial infections in other people.

But, they claim, the ultimate responsibility for coordination and resources rests with national governments, WHO and other international stakeholders.

Not only is there an urgent need for up-to-date information on the level of antibiotic resistance, but also for evidence of effective interventions for the prevention and control of antibiotic resistance at national and local levels, while more focus is needed on infectious diseases, they conclude.

Source: British Medical Journal

Explore further: Researchers reduce antibiotic prescriptions through physician education

Related Stories

Researchers reduce antibiotic prescriptions through physician education

November 21, 2017
Physicians at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California reduced the odds of prescribing an antibiotic for sinusitis by 22 percent using computer alerts to inform doctors when antibiotics may not be the best course of treatment. ...

Pneumonia treatment with vaccines instead of antibiotics

November 21, 2017
Mycoplasma bacteria are one of the most common causes of bacterial pneumonia in children. It is still unclear how the disease develops. Researchers from the University Children's Hospital Zurich and UZH have now demonstrated ...

Combined resistance to multiple antibiotics: A growing problem in the EU

November 15, 2017
On the occasion of the 10th European Antibiotic Awareness Day, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) is releasing its latest EU-wide data on antibiotic resistance, as well as its guidance on prevention ...

Cell-weighing method could help doctors choose cancer drugs

November 20, 2017
Doctors have many drugs available to treat multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. However, there is no way to predict, by genetic markers or other means, how a patient will respond to a particular drug. This can lead to ...

Closest look yet at killer T-cell activity could yield new approach to tackling antibiotic resistance

October 26, 2017
In a study that could provide a roadmap for combatting the rising threat of drug-resistant pathogens, researchers have discovered the specific mechanism the body's T cells use to kill bacteria.

Key discoveries offer significant hope of reversing antibiotic resistance

October 23, 2017
Resistance to antibiotics is becoming increasingly prevalent and threatens to undermine healthcare systems across the globe. Antibiotics including penicillins, cephalosporins and carbapenems are known as β-lactams and are ...

Recommended for you

Scientists find key to regenerating blood vessels

November 23, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies a signaling pathway that is essential for angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels. The ...

Surprising roles for muscle in tissue regeneration, study finds

November 22, 2017
A team of researchers at Whitehead has illuminated an important role for different subtypes of muscle cells in orchestrating the process of tissue regeneration. In a paper published in the November 22 issue of Nature, they ...

Study reveals new mechanisms of cell death in neurodegenerative disorders

November 22, 2017
Researchers at King's College London have discovered new mechanisms of cell death, which may be involved in debilitating neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

How rogue immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier to cause multiple sclerosis

November 21, 2017
Drug designers working on therapeutics against multiple sclerosis should focus on blocking two distinct ways rogue immune cells attack healthy neurons, according to a new study in the journal Cell Reports.

New simple test could help cystic fibrosis patients find best treatment

November 21, 2017
Several cutting-edge treatments have become available in recent years to correct the debilitating chronic lung congestion associated with cystic fibrosis. While the new drugs are life-changing for some patients, they do not ...

Researchers discover key signaling protein for muscle growth

November 20, 2017
Researchers at the University of Louisville have discovered the importance of a well-known protein, myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88), in the development and regeneration of muscles. Ashok Kumar, Ph.D., ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

JerryPark
5 / 5 (1) Sep 19, 2008
It should be instructive that this article on the development of antibiotic resistance through the overuse and misuse of antibiotics does not even mention the tons of antibiotics the animal food industry puts in feed stock every day.
Yes
not rated yet Sep 19, 2008
It is the cycle of death, evil and injustice.

1. Design antibiotics.
2. People who can pay for it use it until bacteria become resistant and more aggressive.
3. Resistant bacteria kills antibiotic user (sort of justice while the user first benefit from it and now kind of pays the price). However the bacteria also goes to remote places and kill people who never used it and was never able to afford to buy this antibiotics anyway (injustice)
4. People who can afford it, design better antibiotics to save themselves. This antibiotics is much more expensive (they justify the cost by saying that it is the research that must be paid which is kind of his own salary)
5. When person who never used antibiotics in third world is not able to buy gets infected by resistant bacteria and asks for the new cure. He is charged the exuberant high price. He can't pay and dies

Logic Conclusion:
Innocent people are charged high prices for the cure of a bacteria, by people that designed this bacteria, who also themselves benefit from the design of the cure.
They can't pay so they are told: sorry you will die, and they do die.
(By the way this a a definition of evil)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.