Lancet: Antibiotic-resistant 'Superbugs' Grave Threat 'In Very Near Future'

Sunday, 17 Nov 2013 12:43 PM

By Greg Richter

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As the debate rages in Washington over the future of Obamcare, The Lancet is issuing a dire warning on "superbugs" that are resistant to antibiotics.

Warnings about the overprescription of antibiotics are not new, but The Lancet article points to a rising concern among researchers that the danger isn't some far-off concern, but something "in the very near future," The Independent reports.

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In just 20 years, routine surgeries such as hip replacements could result in death if the patient develops an infection, said England's deputy chief medical officer, Professor John Watson.

As doctors prescribe antibiotics for things such as ear infections that would heal themselves anyway, bacteria mutate to develop a resistance. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies haven't developed a new class of anti-microbials since 1987 because it is no longer profitable to do so.

Authors of The Lancet article say death rates from bacterial infections "might return to those of the early 20th century." Without antibiotics, they say, "treatments from minor surgery to major transplants could become impossible, and health-care costs are likely to spiral as we resort to newer, more expensive antibiotics and sustain longer hospital admissions."

The Independent quoted a general practitioner as saying patients need to take some of the responsibility.

"We try hard not to prescribe, but it's difficult in practice," he said. "The patient will be dissatisfied with your consultation, and is likely to vote with their feet, register somewhere else or go to the walk-in center and get antibiotics from the nurse."

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