News & Politics

Health Official: Resistance to Antibiotic Drugs Is a 'Catastrophic Threat'

A top British health official said bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a “catastrophic” health risk to patients.

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Strong, bacterial resistance to antibiotics is a “catastrophic” health risk to patients, a top British health official said. Reuters reports that England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, said that bacterial resistance to antibiotics could mean that patients may die from infections that antibiotics can no longer treat.

Davies also said that there is “void” in the production of drugs that could combat bacterial infections, and that global action is needed to close the “void.” Bacterial infections have evolved to be able to resist many of the existing drugs.

“Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat. If we don't act now, any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can't be treated by antibiotics,” said Davies. “And routine operations like hip replacements or organ transplants could be deadly because of the risk of infection.”

Reuters notes that “one of the best known superbugs, MRSA, is alone estimated to kill around 19,000 people every year in the United States - far more than HIV and AIDS - and a similar number in Europe.” Other superbugs are appearing as well.

The news outlet reports that “cases of totally drug resistant tuberculosis have appeared in recent years and a new wave of ‘super superbugs’ with a mutation called NDM 1, which first emerged in India, has now turned up all over the world, from Britain to New Zealand.”

Firedoglake blogger DS Wright notes that the lack of innovation in producing antibiotics can be attributed to “the pharmaceutical industry which has been infected with a Neoliberal mentality concerning bureaucracy and patent trolling. The lack of innovation in the space comes from quarterly profit obsessions and a litigious attitude towards experimentation.”

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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