Today marks the launch of the first World Week for proper use of antibiotics. For a week, priority will be given to good practices’ awareness in the use of antibiotics to reduce the risk of developing resistant bacteria and thus to preserve their effectiveness.
The tools used to diagnose bacterial infections have barely improved since the 1940s. In fact, ‘most of our current testing methods are based on the methods developed by Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch in the 19th century’, the latest report from the UK’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance concludes.
Antibiotics are essential for the control of bacterial infections. However, their misuse can cause the emergence of resistant bacteria to their action. In a matter of few hours a bacteria can cross the globe, and need few more minutes to form a colony of several thousand bacteria.
If practices don’t change and antibiotic resistance spread, it will cause 10 million deaths a year in the world in 2050.
It would become the first cause of mortality in the world ahead of cancer. Furthermore, this increase would cause an erosion of the world GDP of 2 % to 3,5 %. The report concludes that “Financially, it is much cheaper to take into account antibiotic resistance rather than to do nothing “.
The report proposes new ways to support diagnostics to transform how doctors manage infections and slow antibiotic resistance. ‘Antibiotics are relatively cheap and diagnostic tests are relatively expensive,’ says Colin Garner, chief executive of Antibiotic Research UK, a charity focusing on developing new antibiotics. ‘It can take 36 to 48 hours to know if someone has a particular infection, which is too long, since they sometimes need to be treated with antibiotics straight away.’
It is quicker and cheaper to go straight to the antibiotic, skipping past any diagnostic test, ‘just in case’ the antibiotic is effective. The consequence for this practice is: growing resistance to antibiotics. One study found that two-thirds of antibiotics prescribed for respiratory problems in the US were likely to be inappropriate, accounting for 27 million wasted courses a year.
Ideally, rapid diagnostics could reveal whether the infection is bacterial or viral, what type of bacteria are causing an infection, which drugs a bug is susceptible to and whether it is resistant to a specific drug.