Studies have shown that one in four prescriptions of antibiotics for primary care, such as cold or flu, is in fact not needed (Pickover, 2017). It has also been discovered that some bacteria called “superbugs” are now containing a gene (mcr-1) that makes them drug-resistant and already cause the death of 700,000 people each year (Mckie,2017).
Once you start treating bacteria with a new drug, they find ways of surviving. As long as new drugs keep coming, resistance is not a problem. But there has not been a new class of antibiotics discovered since the 1980s (Gallagher, 2015). A new 'Trojan horse' antibiotic has been said to be promising in early clinical trials, which seems promising for the future. However, much larger trials are still needed to be sure of the effectiveness of the new antibiotic (Gallagher, 2018).
If no action is taken to fight back this post-antibiotics apocalypse, soon a simple cut could lead to a life threatening infection and current routine surgeries like getting an appendix removed, or a hip replacement could become high risk procedures due to a higher rate of infection. Cancer treatments and organ transplants would also become more dangerous as the antibiotics wouldn’t respond to the new “superbugs”, and kill the patient (Gallagher, 2015).
It would be like going back in time where a simple disease in modern day would become lethal, and by the year 2050, tens of millions of people would die from drug resistant bacteria (McKie, 2017).
Projections of deaths from drug-resistant infections by 2050 (Gallagher, 2018)
Since 2013, the UK Government had invested £615m in research to tackle drug-resistant infections (Pickover, 2017) and some more solutions are being implemented to reduce the spreading of the bacteria. Firstly, improving sanitation in countries such as India, Nigeria and Brazil would save around 300 million courses of antibiotics used, often ineffectively, to treat tummy bugs and diarrhoea (Yong, 2016) and contain the spread of infection (Gallagher, 2015). Secondly, forbidding the use of antibiotics in agriculture, particularly in fish and porcine livestock which is one of the main causes of the mcr-1 gene (Yong, 2016). Europe has already banned the use of antibiotics to boost the growth of animal production. However, it remains common practice in many parts of the world (Gallagher, 2015).
Finally, but probably most importantly, a global surveillance network will need to be enforced to insure a better management of antibiotics in hospitals, which could reduce drug-resistant infection by 51% (Nationalhealthexecutive.com, 2017). It has become crucial for medical professionals to fully understand the effectiveness of drug-bug combinations in order to reduce the spreading of "superbugs" within their premises (Yong, 2015). In Wales, increasing vigilance when prescribing antibiotics has shown significant progress in hospitals, with the number of deaths from “superbugs” down to a 15-year low (Nationalhealthexecutive.com, 2017).
There is no denial that the post-antibiotics apocalypse is a very serious threat, as it would lead to more deaths than cancer causes each year. Hopefully the spread of superbugs will decrease in the years to come. However, this won’t happen unless actions are being maintained, and it’s the duty of each individual, not only medical practitioners, to limit the intake of antibiotics.