Antibiotic Resistance Could Set Medicine Back a Century
A growing number of microbial infections that resist most known drugs threaten to set medicine back more than a century, an editorial in The Lancet warns. "We are at the dawn of a postantibiotic era,” the editorial says,"with almost all disease causing bacteria resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat them.” Without antibiotics, treatments from minor surgery to transplants could become impossible and healthcare costs will spiral as physicians are forced to use second-choice antibiotics and afflicted patients remain in hospitals longer. Infection mortality rates could return to those of the early twentieth century in developed countries.
November has been designated as antibiotic resistance awareness month, and a Commission established through The Lancet has produced a report by 26 leading experts that analyzes the problem and recommends corrective action. Antibiotic resistance arises because of a complex web of interactions in healthcare, the pharmaceutical industry agriculture and the community. The problem is beyond human medicine, the report notes: most of the 100,000 to 200,000 tons of antibiotics manufactured every year is used in agriculture and animal farming. The report recommends innovating funding to promote antibiotic research while at the same time removing incentives for pharmaceutical companies to try and maximize the sales of any new products they develop. Read the report here.