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Antibiotics May No Longer Work in Twenty Years Time

29/01/2013 | By Sharmila Chauhan
Antibiotics resistance may be a bigger problem than global warming, warned the Chief Medical Officer for England -  Prof
Dame Sally Davies.

During the cold weather, coughs and colds are often at their highest, most virulent attack. Sore throats, fever, coughing and runny noses are all part and parcel of the winter landscape. Fortunately we don't all have to suffer it out and a trip to the GP and a prescription for antibiotics - has long been thought to be a 'cure all' for all our winter maladies. But things may soon be changing.

Antibiotics were first 'discovered' in 1928 by Alexander Fleming and were soon affectionately known as the silver bullet. Today there are around 150 different types of antibiotics and they are used routinely to treat minor and major infections across the world. Deaths from previously fatal diseases are now a thing of the past.

But in recent times, bacteria have developed ways of becoming resistant to our most trusted antibiotics – and seem to be developing ever more sophisticated mechanisms of evading our attack. As more and more bacteria become resistant to antibiotics - the effectiveness of our antibiotics becomes significantly reduced.

Talking to a group of MPs last Wednesday, the Prof Dame Sally Davies, said bacteria were becoming resistant to current drugs and there were few antibiotics to replace them. She impressed upon the audience for action and that this global problem needed much more attention. Currently, there is only one antibiotics for gonorrhoea and there is already an issue with strains of E. coli and tuberculosis.

Prof Davies said: "It is clear that we might not ever see global warming, the apocalyptic scenario is that when I need a new hip in 20 years I'll die from a routine infection because we've run out of antibiotics."

"It is very serious, and it's very serious because we are not using our antibiotics effectively in countries."

There are a number of reasons for increasing resistance. The main one is obviously over usage of antibiotics during times when it is not necessary. One of the most common instance of this is using an antibiotic to treat an unverified infection – such as a cold or cough which may be in fact a viral infection.

Other reasons cited by experts include the use of antibiotics in farming – and also increased travel which increases exposure to already resistant types of diseases such as gonorrhoea.

Developing new models to tackle antibiotic development and resistance, are believed to be the main ways to tackle the problem. The Department of Health will be releasing a report in March 2013 to elaborate on this further.