September 19, 2008

Antibiotics Losing Effect at Alarming Pace

A concerted global response is needed against the rising rate of bacterial resistance or "we will return to the pre-antibiotic era," a Swedish researcher said.

Otto Cars of Uppsala University Hospital in Sweden and colleagues said in an editorial in the British Medical Journal that all antibiotic use "uses up" some of the effectiveness of that antibiotic, diminishing the ability to use it in the future, therefore, antibiotics can no longer be considered as a "renewable source."

Existing antibiotics are losing their effect at an alarming pace, while the development of new antibiotics is declining -- more than a dozen new classes of antibiotics were developed between 1930 and 1970, but only two new classes have been developed since then, the researchers said.

Despite calls for action to address antibiotic resistance, antibiotics are overprescribed, still illegally sold over the counter in some European counties and self medication with leftover medicines is common, the editorial said.

There are alarming reports about serious consequences of antibiotic resistance worldwide, however, there is still a dearth of data on the magnitude and burden of antibiotic resistance, or its economic impact on individuals, healthcare and society, which may explain why there has been little response to this public health threat, the editorial said.