Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria: A Catastrophic Threat

We turn on the news and see constant reports of nations fighting with other nations. But recently, the threat of antibiotic resistance is finally being recognized by world leaders for the major threat that it is; a “nightmare” as the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently called it.

A “catastrophic threat as serious as terrorism,” was how Sally Davies, the U.K.’s Chief Medical Officer, described the urgency of the situation in a report that was recently released on antibiotic resistance. In an interview, she warned of the grim circumstances we will face unless we act urgently, where healthcare will be similar to that of the early 19th century; a place where minor and routine surgeries will become life-threatening.

Pic Via WikiComons

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the U.K.'s chief medical officer.

The lengthy report, co-written by U.K. researchers and representatives of the U.K.’s Health Protection Agency, attributes resistance almost entirely to antibiotics.

Antibiotic resistance poses a catastrophic threat to medicine and could mean patients having minor surgery risk dying from infections that can no longer be treated.

Antibiotics have typically been used as prophylaxis to prevent healthcare-associated infections in patients undergoing routine hip-replacement surgeries since the advent of the procedure. In a recent article, it was investigated how dramatic of an impact the removal of antibiotics would have on the population of patients undergoing routine hip-replacement surgery. It was found that with the removal of antibiotics, postoperative infection rates would increase by up to 50% and deaths by up to 30%.

In other words, just as the largest and most athletic generation history has ever seen would be reaching the age where such surgery is needed, approximately one-sixth of individuals undergoing the routine procedure might die if antibiotic resistance continues to go unchecked.

Over the past two decades, antibiotics have undergone what is known as a “discovery void,” meaning that diseases have evolved faster than the drugs used to treat them. There are several things that can be done to help in the fight against antibiotic resistance, including increased surveillance to keep track of resistant superbugs, proper use of antibiotics, putting more of a focus on the development of new antibiotics, and engaging in the prevention of infections.

It is going to take a collaborative effort to curb antibiotic resistance. Society needs to become more aware of the serious threat of infections and antibiotic resistance. It astonishes me how few people still recognize how serious of a problem these things are. People need to know that antibiotics won’t help with the common cold; by hounding your doctor for a prescription, you are essentially contributing to antibiotic resistance. We need to be aware of the lessons others learned the hard way—like how I lost my father to these preventable superbugs—so that we can pave the way for a safer future.

We’re living in a world consumed by blockbuster zombie thrillers, terrorism, and nuclear threats, but the fact of the matter is that antibiotic resistance is something that we need to worry about here and now. These resistant microbes truly pose a catastrophic treat, as they do not discriminate upon race, religion, country of birth, or any such distinguishing factor we as human beings many impose upon one another.

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