Health officials in the UK are warning that medicine risks “going back to the dark ages” as it emerged that cases of some drug-resistant infections are on the rise.
Public Health England (PHE) has launched a new campaign warning people they could be putting themselves and their families at risk by taking antibiotic medication when the don’t need to.
It comes as a new report details that bloodstream infections caused by bugs resistant to one or more key antibiotics has risen by 35 per cent in just four years – from 12,250 in 2013 to 16,504 in 2017.
PHE has calculated that if antibiotics become ineffective then three million operations and cancer treatments would become life threatening.
Some surgeries and cancer treatments require antibiotics to prevent infections, including caesarean sections and hip or knee replacements.
England’s chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies warned that “without swift action to reduce infections, we are at risk of putting medicine back in the dark ages”.
PHE said that antibiotics are essential for treating serious bacterial infections but the drugs are frequently used to treat coughs, sore throats and ear aches – which usually get better without the medication.
But research suggests that more than a third (38 per cent) of people who seek medical care for a cough, flu or a throat, ear, sinus or chest infection expect to receive an antibiotic.
The health body’s latest campaign reminds people that if they are feeling unwell “antibiotics aren’t always needed”.
Meanwhile, the campaign also urges people to always adhere to a health professional’s advice on antibiotic use.
“It’s concerning that, in the not too distant future, we may see more cancer patients, mothers who’ve had caesareans and patients who’ve had other surgery facing life threatening situations if antibiotics fail to ward off infections,” said PHE’s medical director Professor Paul Cosford.
“We need to preserve antibiotics for when we really need them and we are calling on the public to join us in tackling antibiotic resistance by listening to your GP, pharmacist or nurse’s advice and only taking antibiotics when necessary.”
Australian Associated Press