Via The Independent: 'Superbugs could erase a century of medical advances,' experts warn. Excerpt and then a comment:
Drug-resistant "superbugs" represent one of the gravest threats in the history of medicine, leading experts have warned.
Routine operations could become deadly "in the very near future" as bacteria evolve to resist the drugs we use to combat them. This process could erase a century of medical advances, say government doctors in a special editorial in The Lancet health journal.
Although the looming threat of antibiotic, or anti-microbial, resistance has been known about for years, the new warning reflects growing concern that the NHS and other national health systems, already under pressure from ageing populations, will struggle to cope with the rising cost of caring for people in the "post-antibiotic era".
In a stark reflection of the seriousness of the threat, England's deputy chief medical officer, Professor John Watson, said: "I am concerned that in 20 years, if I go into hospital for a hip replacement, I could get an infection leading to major complications and possible death, simply because antibiotics no longer work as they do now."
About 35 million antibiotics are prescribed by GPs in England every year. The more the drugs circulate, the more bacteria are able to evolve to resist them. In the past, drug development kept pace with evolving microbes, with a constant production line of new classes of antibiotics. But the drugs have ceased to be profitable and a new class has not been created since 1987.
Writing in The Lancet, experts, including England's chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, warn that death rates from bacterial infections "might return to those of the early 20th century".
They write: "Rarely has modern medicine faced such a grave threat. Without antibiotics, treatments from minor surgery to major transplants could become impossible, and health-care costs are likely to spiral as we resort to newer, more expensive antibiotics and sustain longer hospital admissions."
The other day I had lunch with a former teaching colleague. He had spent months on chemotherapy before an operation to remove the rest of the cancer. The chemo worked so well that there was no cancer left to remove. But while in the hospital, he picked up a case of C. difficile that took a long time to beat.