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Doctor's warning over antibiotics threat
THE DEATH of a celebrity may be the only way to highlight the real dangers of increasing antibiotic resistance, a Southampton doctor warned today.
Dr Kieran Hand, a consultant pharmacist at Southampton General Hospital, fears the threat will not be taken seriously enough unless a famous face loses their life as a result of antibiotics failing to fight a common infection.
His warning comes as chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies called for antibiotic resistance to be ranked alongside terrorism when it comes to the threat posed to the nation.
Although deaths from infectious diseases have declined over the past 20 years due to improvements in hygiene and immunisation, they still account for seven per cent of all deaths in England.
With many antibiotics currently prescribed and used for mild infections, such as sore throats and colds, patients in hospital who develop complex infections such as kidney and bloodstream infections are becoming increasingly resistant to treatment.
While cases of superbug MRSA in UK hospitals have fallen by 80 per cent since 2003, other hospital-acquired infections, including E.coli and Klebsiella, which are commonly found in the intestines but can cause blood infections, have increased by 75 per cent.
Professor Davies, Dr Hand and other national experts are calling for a global effort to tackle the issue, which they believe could result in routine operation becoming deadly within 20 years if action is not taken to develop new drugs.
Dr Hand, who co-authored the chapter on the issue in Professor Davies’ annual report, believes the issue has been neglected for far too long.
He said: “Sadly, while everyone focused on fighting MRSA and Clostridium difficile and keeping the negative headlines away, other infections have crept through the back door and these are just the tip of the iceberg.”
Dr Hand, who was one of the country’s first specialist pharmacists in the treatment of drug-resistant infections, added: “I see patients with infections caused by multi-resistant micro organisms on ward rounds every week and we are resorting to older, less effective, more toxic antibiotics in many cases – sometimes importing unlicensed experimental drugs from overseas.
“Infectious diseases have long been neglected as a medical specialty and research into new antibiotics is currently alarmingly underfunded, but perhaps it will take the tragic untimely death of a celebrity to awaken the general public and our politicians to the threat we are facing.”