Antibiotic resistance, like global warming, is a threat to our future that keeps popping up in the media. The topic moved centre-stage today, with the long awaited publication of a major report that specifies the severity of the risk, and the measures that need to be taken to avert the threat.
It’s a long report, at 84 pages, and it’s worth reading for those with a serious interest in the subject, but here’s the gist of what’s being said.
Antibiotics are critical for modern medicine and surgery
First, the issue: antibiotics are a special category of antimicrobial drugs that underpin modern medicine (and veterinary medicine). If they lose their effectiveness, key surgical procedures (such as intestinal surgery, caesarean sections and joint replacements) and important medical treatments that depress the immune system (such as chemotherapy) for cancer) could become too dangerous to perform.
Why should antibiotics lose their effectiveness? Basically, bacteria are sometimes able to develop mechanisms to avoid being killed by antibiotics, developing so-called “resistant strains”. These are then able to multiply in the presence of the antibiotic, rendering the drug useless….