Many to die if no action is taken against super bugs, says report

2016-05-25 09:44


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Pietermaritzburg - Following the recent super bug outbreak at Durban’s Mahatma Gandhi Hospital, it has been estimated that 10 million people will die each year from “super bugs” by 2050.

A UK report, The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), by macroeconomist Jim O’Neill released earlier this month, said the increase in “super bugs” (drug-resistant bacteria) could reach critical proportions by the year 2050 if steps to remedy the issue were not taken immediately.

The report estimated that currently 700 000 people die of resistant infections every year, but said this figure was thought to be much higher.

“Antibiotics are a special category of antimicrobial drugs that underpin modern medicine as we know it,” said the report.

“If they lose their effectiveness, key medical procedures (such as gut surgery, caesarean sections, joint replacements, and treatments that depress the immune system, such as chemotherapy for cancer) could become too dangerous to perform.”

Earlier in May, a press statement by DA MPL Dr Imran Keeka said a multi-resistant “super bug” Klebsiella had infected 10 babies in less than two weeks at Durban’s Mahatma Gandhi’s neonatal ICU.

Klebsiella is a life-threatening and sometimes fatal bacteria.

The outbreak of the bug Acinetobacter also led to the deaths of two babies in that hospital’s neonatal ICU.

The statement also referred to another alleged outbreak of Acinetobacter and/or Klebsiella last year at Albert Luthuli Hospital, which resulted in the deaths of five babies.

University of Cape Town infectious diseases and HIV medicine head Professor Marc Mendelson said there had been an increase in super bugs in South Africa, especially in major city hospitals.

He said there was a large number of “highly resistant” bacteria that was being largely driven by the over-use and misuse of antibiotics.

He said bacteria naturally acquired resistance and under the right circumstances could become dominant, causing infections. They can be spread from person to person, and he emphasised the importance of good hand hygiene.

“The more antibiotics used in the population, the more resistant bacteria will emerge,” he said.

O’Neill’s report said the supply of new medicines is insufficient to keep up with the increase in drug resistance as older medicines are used more widely and microbes evolve to resist them.

He said improving hygiene and sanitation was crucial in reducing the rise in drug resistance.

“The less people infected, the less they need to use medicines such as antibiotics, and the less drug resistance arises.”

The report said it was also important to promote new, rapid diagnostics to cut the unnecessary use of antibiotics.

“It is not acceptable that much of the technology used to inform the prescription of important medicines like antibiotics has not evolved substantially in more than 140 years.”

The report said vaccines can prevent infections and reduce use of antibiotics, slowing the rise of drug resistance.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  health

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