Antibiotic overuse threatens us all

By | February 21, 2012

That drug-resistant blood-poisoning cases in Britain have risen by 30 per cent in less than five years is concerning enough. That the official analysis judges the soaring cases of untreatable E.coli to be just the “tip of the iceberg” of antibiotic resistance should be a spur to more concerted efforts to address the problem.

The implications are dire indeed. If bacteria can no longer be controlled by antibiotics, then common infections that are now largely harmless may become deadly diseases. But if the consequences of drug-resistant bugs are daunting, avoiding them is hardly less so.

A central issue is overuse. Although antibiotics only work against bacteriological infections, all too often patients demand them – and doctors obligingly prescribe them – for coughs, colds and other viruses. In Britain, there have been attempts to limit over-prescription, albeit without much success. Elsewhere, particularly in developing countries, where drugs are sold over the counter, controlling usage is a greater challenge still. Add their ballooning use in agriculture, to promote growth in chickens for example, and it is not difficult to see how obsolescence rates are being accelerated.

That is not all. While overuse is shortening the lifespan of the antibiotics we already have, efforts to develop newer versions have all but ground to a halt. The combination of eye-watering research costs, and the limited profitability of any drug only taken in short bursts, leaves even the largest commercial drug companies unable to afford to develop new antibiotics. The result is a growing gap in our medical arsenal.

Altogether, the outlook is far from reassuring. Although there have been some efforts to get to grips with drug resistance – from the World Health Organisation and from individual governments, including our own – all the evidence suggests the trend is gathering pace.

via Leading article: Antibiotic overuse threatens us all – Leading Articles – Opinion – The Independent.

On the other side of the coin, I had an eardrum burst and still have hearing loss due to the hesitation of my HMO to give me an antibiotic when I needed one.

0 thoughts on “Antibiotic overuse threatens us all

  1. Sepp Hasslberger

    The article doesn’t really hit bulls eye.

    While it’s true that antibiotic overuse is threatening the effectiveness of antibiotics, it isn’t overuse from doctors prescribing.

    A huge part of the world’s antibiotic production (something like 70%) goes not to human use but is given to animals, as routine “preventive” injections, and even in their feed. So the meat we eat is laced with low level antibiotics, to which bacteria can easily develop resistance. Then we have resistant bacteria and antibiotics don’t work any more.

    The culprits: Pharmaceutical companies who push their agricultural sales (for profit) and the US FDA who refuses to put an end to the charade.

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