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Experts urge action to prevent antibiotics 'apocalypse'

Thursday 24th January 2013
Chief medical officer for England Professor Dame Sally Davies has warned MPs about the rising number of infections that are becoming resistant to current drugs.
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The increase in drug-resistant infections is as great a threat as global warming, the chief medical officer for England has warned.

Professor Dame Sally Davies told a parliamentary committee that bacteria are becoming immune to an alarming number of current drugs, and that there were few antibiotics available to replace them.

She added that the threat of infection could soon mean that operations once considered routine could become deadly.

Prof Davies said: "It is clear that we might not ever see global warming, the apocalyptic scenario is that when I need a new hip in 20 years I'll die from a routine infection because we've run out of antibiotics.

"It is very serious, and it's very serious because we are not using our antibiotics effectively in countries."

Prof Davies will present a report that will outline possible solutions to the problem in March this year.

Notable infections to have developed resistance to drugs include strains of E. Coli, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and MRSA.

MRSA has become a particular worry for many medical professionals, and causes thousands of deaths a year. 

Hospitals can kill MRSA by using traditional disinfectants such as ethanol or bleach, but such products quickly evaporate rapidly and are unsuitable for application to skin.

In the case of gonorrhoea, Prof Davies revealed that there was now only one antibiotic that was capable of offering effective treatment.

A statement by the World Health Organisation on World Health Day in 2011, warned that action was need to ensure the world did not fall victim to a "post-antibiotic era", where common infections could become fatal for patients.

The news comes after reports that IBM has helped develop a new substance that could aid in the fight against deadly infections and superbugs called hydrogel.

Developers claim that the new substance can not only destroy bacteria, but can also provide long-lasting protection, as well as being suitable for applying to the skin and medical equipment.

By Angela Newbury

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