The World Health Organization has released a new report, “Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance,” and the findings are not positive. Scientist now claim that antibiotics will soon become ineffective. Antibiotic resistance is growing rapidly and the effects will be costly and dangerous as more treatments become ineffective. Patients will rack up hospital bills faster from longer stays and will require more intensive care as they will remain sick for longer periods of time. Already, certain drug resistant strains pack more power with significantly higher risk of death, as opposed to their non-resistant counterparts.
The bacteria that cause gonorrhea, urinary tract infections (UTIs), sepsis (severe blood infections), pneumonia, and diarrhea have developed to often resist the use of antibiotics and in large percentages, have become unaffected by powerful drugs used as “last resort” medications when the others fail.
Antibiotic resistance is a “major threat to public health,” says Dr. Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security at WHO since 2010. He explained it would take “urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders” but the current outlook suggest that soon, “common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.”
This “post-antibiotic era” may have been mostly caused by misuse and overuse. Especially dangerous to the progression of resistance are the patients who do not finish their full prescription. When antibiotics are stopped because the patient feels better, bacteria can remain present and develop better methods of staying alive, resisting the prescribed drug. As more treatments become ineffective, there is a growing need to find ways to slow antibiotic resistance and look for alternatives. According to Dr. Fukuda, the medical community is taking significant actions towards better prevention of infections, and altering the production, prescription, and use of antibiotics. He warns, if this is not done, the implications will be devastating.
Key points in the report highlight four problems in particular. Common hospital infections, predominantly cause by a prevalent intestinal bacteria, can sometimes be life-threatening. These infections cause pneumonia and bloodstream infections and the patients most vulnerable and likely to be affected are newborns and ICU patients. In some countries the treatment given is ineffective in more than half of the patients. The same goes for UTIs, the treatment of which had no resistance when it was created around 1980.
The third issue discovered involves gonorrhea, which daily infects one million people across the globe.It has become resistant to third generation antibiotics. Confirmed failure of treatment has been reported in Canada, the United Kingdom, Austria, Australia, France, Japan, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, and Sweden. The final main point demonstrates the danger caused by antibiotic resistance. The treatment resistant version of Staphylococcus aureus (the cause of staph infections) is classified as MRSA. Those with the MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) version are 64 percent more likely to die.
Bacteria have started circumventing the treatments by evolving defense mechanisms that “destroy the antibiotic in order to protect themselves,” said Stuart Levy, chair of the board of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics at Tufts University School of Medicine, in Boston. The growing number of ineffective treatments of antibiotic resistant bacteria shows that they are changing more rapidly than medical science can keep up. “Genetics is working against us, almost like a science-fiction story.” He explained they have developed a resistant gene against the drug which protects them. “A bacteria may have developed resistance to five or six antibiotics, so in treatment, you don’t know which one to choose.”
By Whitney Hudson