The BBC has a somewhat alarmist new report on the growing strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the world. According to the chief medical officer for England, the rise of antibiotic resistant strains is comparable to the threat of global warming.
Although I think the tone of the article (“antibiotic apocalypse”) is a little much, there certainly is reason to be concerned, and reason for those of us who are not doctors and scientists to sit up and take notice. Professor Dame Sally Davies told a committee in the UK that:
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.
Eesh. The World Health Organization has also warned that the globe is heading for a “post-antibiotic era” unless action is taken. With strains of MRSA, E.coli and even tuberculosis showing resistance to drugs, the seriousness of the problem is now apparent. Did you know there’s only one antibiotic left to treat gonorrhea, a common STD?
Professor Hugh Pennington, a microbiologist, said:
We do need to pay much more attention to it. We need resources for surveillance, resources to cope with the problem and to get public information across.
Sally Davies is expected to include possible solutions to this scary situation in a report published in March. But what can you, personally, do to avoid this apocalyptic antibiotic scenario? I guess there’s not much, other than get smart about antibiotics, question their use, and become an informed participant in your own health. That certainly won’t guarantee that you won’t contract a dangerous infection, but knowing more about how antibiotics work and the risks and benefits of using them is good for everyone: individuals and society as a whole.