Antibiotic resistance could be ‘apocalyptic scenario’

Antibiotic resistance “has the potential to undermine modern health systems,” and an “apocalyptic scenario may be looming if we don’t act now,” say scientists writing in the British Medical Journal.

Current estimates suggest that antibiotic resistance is a relatively cheap problem, they write, but such estimates do not take account of the fact that antimicrobial medicines are integral to modern health care. For example, antibiotics are given as standard to patients undergoing surgery, to women delivering by caesarean section, and to those having cancer treatment.

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“From cradle to grave, antimicrobials have become pivotal in safeguarding the overall health of human societies,” they write.

A release from the BMJ says that current infection rates for patients undergoing hip replacement are 0.5 to two per cent, so most patients recover without infection, and those who have an infection have it successfully treated. But the authors estimate that, without antibiotics, the rate of post-operative infection could be 40-50 per cent and about 30 per cent of those with an infection could die.

While they recognize that this is a simplistic analysis, they say, “we use it as an example to illustrate and provoke, to emphasize the point that infection rates and their consequences in terms of health service costs and human health may be unimaginable.”

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