Antibiotic-resistant superbugs creating deadly risks for hip and knee operations
Originally published on The Telegraph
Hip and knee operations are becoming increasingly lethal due to the rise of antibiotic resistance (AMR), health officials have warned.
More than 2,500 people are now dying each year following a surge in once-treatable bloodstream infections for which antibiotics no longer work.
A new report from Public Health England (PHE) warns that unless the trend is arrested, routine surgery, caesarean sections and some cancer treatments risk becoming life-threatening for more than three million patients each year.
They are among a raft of common procedures which have been relatively safe for decades thanks to prophylactic (precautionary) antibiotics.
However, the report warns that an estimated 35 per cent increase in bloodstream infections between 2013 and 2017 proves that the drugs are rapidly losing their power.
AMR occurs when bacteria and other pathogens develop resistance to medicines used to attack them through spontaneous genetic mutation and natural selection.
Some degree of resistance is inevitable, however the process has been dramatically worsened by profligate use of the drugs in both humans and animals.
No new class of antibiotics have been developed since the 1970s, and pharmaceutical companies are increasingly reluctant to invest in research and development.
Officials believe that at the current rate, 10 million people a year will die worldwide by 2050 due to AMR.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, said: “The evidence is clear that without swift action to reduce infections, we are at risk of putting medicine back in the dark ages, to an age where common procedures we take for granted could become too dangerous to perform and treatable conditions become life-threatening.”
More than nine million surgical procedures are performed in England each year, of which it is estimated one in three require antibiotics to be given prior to or during surgery to prevent infections.
The drugs are also required for many cancer patients because both the disease and chemotherapy reduce the immune system’s ability to fight infections.
Roughly one in two patients receiving treatment for cancer of blood conditions are given an antibiotic.
As well as the increase in bloodstream infections, 2017 saw a 22 per cent increase in the number of gonorrhoea diagnoses compared to the previous year, which is thought to be a result of AMR.
Earlier this year the first known British case of “super-gonorrhoea” was discovered, after a man picked up a strain of the sexually-transmitted infection in Thailand that proved resistant to all the standard drugs.
PHE on Monday night appealed to patients not to demand antibiotics from their GP in order to preserve the power of the medication.
Professor Paul Cosford, the organisation’s medical director, said: “We need to preserve antibiotics for when we really need them and we are calling on the public to join us in tackling antibiotic resistance by listening to your GP, pharmacist or nurse’s advice and only taking antibiotics when necessary.
“Taking antibiotics just in case may seem like a harmless act but it can have grave consequences for you and your family’s health in future.”
GPs were responsible for 81 per cent of the antibiotics prescribed last year.
There has been progress, however, with the number of prescriptions dispensed in primary care declining 13.2 per cent over the preceding five years.