With the golden age of antibiotics discovery now in the past it is with rising apprehension that many of us regard the current rise in antibiotic resistance. In 2013 the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davis, warned of an “apocalyptic scenario” in which even the most routine medical operations may become life-threatening due to untreatable infections.
In the EU; 25000 people die each year due to antibiotic resistant infections, a number set to rise with the emergence of multi-drug resistance. Thus it is becoming increasingly clear that we must either hunt for replacements or make huge efforts to conserve the antibiotics that we currently have. Findings of a survey released by the World Health Organisation this week suggest that the latter will be difficult without increasing efforts to educate the public.
Amongst the,worrying statistics 64% of the 10000 respondents wrongly thought that virally-caused colds could be treated with antibiotics. 32% of people also believed that rather than taking a full course of an antibiotic, it is better to stop taking the medication once symptoms cease. Surprisingly a large proportion of people (76%) also believed that resistance occurs due to the body itself becoming resistant, rather than the infectious agents evolving antibiotic resistance mechanisms. Such misconceptions are only likely to result in the improper use of antibiotics, and thus an escalation of the resistance crisis.
This week (16th-20th November 2015) is world antibiotics awareness week. This aims to inform people about the urgency of the global antibiotics resistance crisis and encourage better practice amongst the public and in the health services. As a PhD student interested in antibiotics, I spend a large portion of my time taking the search for novel antibiotics further, such as to the nests of leafcutter ants. But bringing new antibiotics to the clinic takes time and there are many pitfalls. It is clear that conservation and, crucially, education will be key in the meantime.