Antibiotic resistance 'big threat to health'

Antibiotic resistant bacteria Antibiotic resistance is growing

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Resistance to antibiotics is one of the greatest threats to modern health, experts say.

The warning from England's chief medical officer and the Health Protection Agency comes amid reports of growing problems with resistant strains of bugs such as E. coli and gonorrhoea.

They said many antibiotics were being used unnecessarily for mild infections, helping to create resistance.

And they urged patients to take more care with how they used medicines.

This is particularly important as there are very few new antibiotics in development.


The chief medical officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said: "Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversible - similar to global warming.

"I urge patients and prescribers to think about the drugs they are requesting and dispensing.

"Bacteria are adapting and finding ways to survive the effects of antibiotics, ultimately becoming resistant so they no longer work.

Prof Dame Sally Davies warns of the consequences of antibiotic resistance

"The more you use an antibiotic, the more bacteria become resistant to it."

To reinforce her message, Dame Sally has issued a list of "dos and don'ts".

These include:

  • Do remember antibiotics should be taken only when prescribed by a health professional.
  • Do complete the prescribed course even if you feel better, as not taking the full course encourages the emergence of resistance.
  • Don't share antibiotics with anyone else.
  • Do remember that antibiotics cannot help you recover from infections caused by viruses, such as colds or flu.

The HPA said the last point was one of the common misconceptions among the public.

Dr Cliodna McNulty from the HPA said: "We all seem to forget just how awful you can feel with a bad cold, let alone flu, and this maybe makes us think that we are more poorly than we really are and that we need antibiotics to get better.

"But this isn't the case and using your favourite over-the-counter medicines that can help to ease headaches, aching muscles and stop your nose running will make you feel a lot better."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Personally I refuse to take Antibiotics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Patients can be blamed for not finishing courses.

    However, inappropriate prescription is entirely the responsibility of doctors.

    Agriculture urgently needs review.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    How many millions of teeth are pulled out of patients mouths in the uk all because patients have toothache, & not one dentist or dr will prescribe penicillin which cures nearly all toothaches, because the medical proffession is a billion dollar racket with doctors & dentists riding around in porsches & yachts to sail on, see 5 different doctors & get 5 different diagnoses to your problem, quacks

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    This is just one of my reasons for concern at the amount of pointless vanity surgeries now being performed. Boob / nose jobs, gastric bypasses, elective c-sections, all carry an infection risk which then requires antibiotics. Once resistance becomes widespread, untreatable infection will also make critical life-saving surgery much more dangerous (as it was prior to the discovery of antibiotics).

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    @48 Resistance to anti-virals might be next.

    There are many strains of virus that are resistant to anti virals e.g. strains of the HIV virus.

    Bacteria resistance will only get worse. The cost impact is already high by having to put MRSA positive patients and others in side rooms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Recommendations include not sharing antibiotics has to be unlikely, I can't think many people are doing this. Not completing the full course prescribed also since the majority will follow the instructions that are printed off and stuck to the packaging. GPs usually drum this into their patients. Perhaps patients are not quite so stupid but as suggested farming methods to blame possibly for this

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    It might be wise to ban the wholesale dumping of antibiotics into the environment and food chain while we're at it. They are used extensively in animal feeds to counter the threats created by modern livestock practices. Perhaps the worst is in fish farming, particularly Salmon; antibiotics are not going to respect the nominal boundaries of the farm and affect ecosystems far beyond. Short sighted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Comparing emerging antibiotic resistance to global warming is a desperate attempt to create media hype over the subject. The analogy is a non sequitur.
    Crucial research has discovered bacteria in extreme underground environments. One species was discovered that secreted ~36 antimicrobial chemicals, essentially this is more than the number of antibiotics currently applied in medicine today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    How little we know.

    When will so-called experts admit they know less than 1% of what's needed.

    As they say: "A little knowledge is a very dangerous thing"

    Keep away from doctors, suffer a little and grow stronger, use common sense and listen to granny - she probably knows best.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    There is a reason we have an immune system, unless it is absolutely necerssary to take Antibiotics try using your immune system. I do and the common cold or chest infection hasn't harmed me in the slightest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Can we please stop using antibiotics as an addition to the feed given to cattle. This is one of the main reasons for bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    "...Until recently the effectiveness of phage therapy had not been confirmed by clinical trials. They can be effective but, like antibiotics, resistance can still arise. There is also a problem of the difficulty of patenting phage."
    Many thanks for the feedback - much appreciated.

    So, despite it being a possible alternative, it really comes down to profit over health?

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    A close friend of mine is a leading expert on the mechanisms of antibiotic resistance. Their research was famous around the Globe and was highly rated indeed, and considered second to none. They gave up research because they grew tired of temporary contracts and struggling for grants when the governments and grant-awarding bodies never took the issue seriously enough to fund the research.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    'Not trusting' antibiotics is ridiculous. People died from serious bacterial infections not too many decades ago, especially after surgery.

    The problems are incorrect use by people not finishing courses because they feel better, being able to buy them over the counter in many countries (Greece, Spain) rather than controlled access through prescriptions, but the biggest problem is use in farming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    UK expat, For 15 years i have been self prescribing antibiotics for food poisoning, strep, (toothache 100% sucess rate) doctors just dont want you to put them out of business & there 5k a week pay packet, like dentists would be out of business if patients new that antibiotics cure 99% of all toothaches, the main reason people visit the dr is for infection, freedom of antibiotics means no 5k wage

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I wouldn't even bother the doctor for a mere cold, let alone ask for a medication that isn't effective against the virus that causes it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Resistance to anti-virals might be next: I was given them for shingles & when they caused splitting headaches, no medical person had any opinion on whether stopping was dangerous, I was told "no there's no way that can happen because the drugs have only been round a few years" which didn't address resistance

    Later I heard lots of shingles patients have the same problems yet nobody seems bothered?

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Regarding phages: The exact strain of bacteria causing the infection has to be confirmed (which can take a week) then phage administered (trickier than taking a pill). Fine for chronic infections but too slow for acute (like pneumonia) and FAR more expensive. Most antibiotics like penicillin cost the NHS 10-20p a course. They're decades out of patent so the pharma companies make nothing from them

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    All those deaths from MRSA? - grist for the Corporate mill. The bacteriophage that preys on MRSA is in the sewers of the very hospital infected. Take samples and then grow it on petri dishes. Trouble is, no profit for Big Pharma in that. No tax breaks for R&D, no IP, no patents only a warmth in the soul from knowing you've prevented 1,000s of unneccesary deaths. Oh ok, corporations have no soul

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    When 1% owns and directs the country, with 99% paying for it ... greed stress and ruthlessness is the result of it - it is encouraged.

    The greed and pressure forces farmers to put the AB into their animals - and then it goes into us.

    You can't solve these problems without changing the power behind it.

    It's not about doctors or shower gel .... our entire society is based in on ruthlessness.


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