In a warning that will strike fear into the hearts of all thinking people, the World Health Organisation warns of catastrophic effects of antibiotic overuse that they say are here now, not at some vague point in the future.
The over-prescription of antibiotics, says WHO, has led to bacteria evolving and developing resistance to which current therapeutics have no answer.
Experts warn that minor cuts, grazes, diarrhoea and flu could soon become fatal as antibiotics lose their power to fight minor infections.
The WHO highlighted seven species of bacteria that are showing higher levels of antibiotic resistence. They are: E.coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphyococcus aureus (MRSA), Streptococcus pneumoniae, Nontyphoidal Salmonella, Shigella species and Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
If some of those sound familiar, it’s because they are: they all cause common illnesses like urinary tract infections, sore throats, pneumonia, diarrhoea and even gonorrhea. And this risk compounds for those with compromised immune systems, such as those undergoing treatment for cancer.
Dr Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director for health security, said: ‘Without urgent, co-ordinated action, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill. Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections, and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods and the implications will be devastating.
We should anticipate many more deaths. We are going to see people who have untreatable infections.”
The WHO recommended the public take basic precautions such as such as washing hands to prevent bacteria from spreading.
The surgeon and former UK health minister, Lord Darzi, wrote in the Telegraph: “The world is entering an era where a child’s scratched knee could kill, where patients entering hospital gamble with their lives and routine operations are too dangerous to carry out. Every antibiotic ever developed is at risk of becoming useless. The age of safe medicine is ending.”
Professor Laura Piddock, Director of Antibiotic Action and Professor of Microbiology at the University of Birmingham said: “The world needs to respond as it did to the AIDS crisis of the Eighties.”
Which is all very cheerful, isn’t it?
When we are asked “What is humankind’s greatest discovery?” ( a common dinner-table topic when sex and politics has been exhausted) we eschew the obvious ones: the microchip, space travel, intensive farming, TV, etc, because in our opinion, it’s antibiotics.
In the last 70 years or so, billions of people have lived long, productive lives who within living memory would have died. We are old enough to have known people in our family who died of of infections that today would be cured in a a couple of days, and often without feeling especially unwell.
We need to act now on this warning. And we need to get these thoughts very very clear in our head, people.
ALWAYS wash your hands after using the lavatory, without fail, every time. ALWAYS was your hands before eating. ALWAYS wash your hands after visiting someone in hospital. ALWAYS wash your hands after changing the baby’s diaper.
Minimum. Hot soap and water is good. Some studies show it to me more effective than disinfectants. Now that’s not so hard, is it?
Remember: ONLY bacterial infections are cured by antibiotics.
Antibiotics do NOT cure colds and flu and other viruses.
Don’t buy them for a simple cold, don’t beg your GP for them, just suffer like the rest of us. You’re going to anyway.
If you get sick, and before you rush off to a pharmacy with the script your doctor has wearily written out without thinking, just ask your doctor whether your body might do a fine job of curing itself BEFORE you automatically guzzle a packet of penicillin.
No, no-one wants you to become very ill – just maybe, having taken his or her advice, monitor the situation for a day or two, with your GP aware of how you’re doing, before resorting to antibiotics. There are also plenty of foodstuffs around with antibiotic properties. Google them, and eat them.
And most of all, NEVER EVER EVER eat only half the packet of antibiotics thinking you are better and you don’t need them anymore. You might be, but you are risking leaving a bunch of germs inside you that manage to survive the antibiotics, which you can then pass on to someone else. If you get the damn pills, eat the damn pills. All of them. Every time.
That is all.