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UK government warns over antibiotic resistant deaths

Cabinet Office document says the next 20 years is a crucial period for creating new medicines

Petri dish  

More than 80,000 people could die as a result of antibiotic-resistant blood infection, according to a new government document.

The National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies says a “widespread outbreak” could potentially infect 200,000 people and calculates that around two in five of them “might die”.

The document also says “high numbers of deaths could also be expected” from other forms of resistant infection and warns that infection risk could make “much of modern medicine” unsafe.

Only a handful of big pharma firms, such as AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline are currently developing new antibiotics to stave off the threat from resistance.

This happens when bacteria evolve to such a degree that older medicines no longer have any affect.

Pharma says it needs better financial incentives to develop new antibiotics as most would never be used, and it would be unlikely it would gain a return on investment. 

But many doctor groups have been warning that a lack of research in this area could be a real threat to public health, with the Prime Minister David Cameron saying earlier this year that we face a 'Dark Ages' of medicine if new treatments are not manufactured.

The Cabinet Office document, the first formal documented warning from a governmental body, says the number of infections “complicated” by antimicrobial resistance is expected to “increase markedly over the next 20 years”.

“Without effective antibiotics, even minor surgery and routine operations could become high-risk procedures, leading to increased duration of illness and ultimately premature mortality,” it says.

It says procedures such as organ transplantation, bowel surgery and some cancer treatments would become unsafe.

It concludes by saying that the UK government is “leading work with international partners” to tackle what is a global problem.

Article by
Ben Adams

7th April 2015

From: Healthcare

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