Antibiotic Resistance Threatens To Drag Healthcare Back To The Victorian Era

The superbugs and the threat they pose to our healthcare systems and ultimately our lives and limbs have been a topic I have visited on an intermittent basis over the last few years, but given the number and variety of bacteria now achieving pan-drug resistance, it’s probably worth another discussion.

Since I last wrote about the topic we have learned of a number of diseases which are now, effectively, incurable with modern medicines. STDs, Tuberculosis, e.coli, the list is longer than anyone would like. These infections are once more fatal. For Tuberculosis, which was thought to have been eradicated in the 1960s, that’s a particularly unwelcome return.

Antibiotic resistance has reached the point where we now need to revisit Victorian era treatments for these infections. Amputation, lung removal, and eventually palliative care become the only options available to clinicians.

The warnings about the superbug and the careful management of antibiotics dispensing, their use in farming and the need to fund the development of new antibiotics have been largely ignored. Now it seems the time has passed where those controls could have made a difference.

Development of new antibiotics would be a solution, but there are battlers, financial and technical, to doing this. Drug companies can’t invest money in developing new drugs when that money won’t ever be earned back. Either the drug is restricted in its use to prevent the development of resistance, or it is distributed widely and becomes ineffective in as little as eighteen months.

Funding from government is required to break this cycle, yet the short term view taken by most governments precludes this.

The current best guess is that all antibiotics will be totally ineffective within the next ten years. Which leaves us in a world where those Victorian treatments, or death are the only things we can offer infected patients.

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