MOSCOW, September 27 (RIA Novosti) - A Cardiff University study by Professor Craig Currie has found that resistance to common antibiotic treatments has grown by 12 percent between 1991 and 2012, the BBC reported.
Dr. Currie notes that this rise is worrying due to “the lack of new antibiotics being developed,” the source noted.
The study found that the overall failure rate of antibiotics has increased from 13.9 to 15.4 percent.
The study, one of the the largest of its kind, used the UK’s Clinical Practice Research Datalink, a databank containing the anonymized records of over 14 million individuals from nearly 700 general practitioners in the country.
The common treatments observed included things like respiratory tract, skin, soft tissue and ear infections.
The failure rates ranged dramatically: some failure rates held steady throughout the period, while others grew dramatically. For instance, amoxicillin -commonly used to treat bronchitis and ear infections, had a low failure rate of about 12 percent. On the other hand, trimethoprim -commonly used to treat urinary tract infections, was shown to fail at a rate of about 56 percent in 2012, up from 25 percent in 1991.
Faulty Prescriptions and Increased Use to Blame
Currie’s study noted that the significant rise in immunity to antibiotics among viruses may be caused by faulty prescriptions, which result in the “fuelling [of] resistance, prolonging illness and in some cases killing people.” He stressed the importance of “appropriate medication for [the] condition” being treated.
The increased use of antibiotics to treat common ailments may also be playing a big role in higher failure rates. Currie notes that between 2000 and 2012, the proportion of illnesses which were treated by antibiotics has increased from 60 to 65 percent. He notes that this time frame is also “the period in which we see the biggest increase in antibiotic failure rates.”
Other medical professionals have agreed with Currie’s arguments. Voicing his agreement, Professor Simon Clarke of the University of Reading noted the responsibility of GPs “in managing patient demand for antibiotics.” The University of Edinburgh’s Dr. Mark Woolhouse also agreed on the need to “reduce usage and develop alternative therapies.”
The loss of effectiveness of antibiotics and the resulting threat of superbugs is something the World Health Organization worriedly reported on in April.
The Telegraph had earlier revealed that general practitioners in northern Britain prescribe significantly more antibiotics than elsewhere, noting that whereas 40,102 prescriptions had been written for every 100,000 residents of London, 89,763 prescriptions had been written for every 100,000 people in South Tees in the north. The British national average is 69,586 prescriptions per 100,000 this year.
Not Worth Panicking
Despite the “worrying” results of the study, Dr. Currie has said that they were “not quite the ‘cliff’ we would have imagined,” based on “the general level of feverish debate” on the matter. Earlier this summer, British Prime Minister David Cameron had warned that the growing immunity of viruses to antibiotics could “cast [the world] back into the dark ages of medicine.”
Professor Christine Dodd of the University of Bedford has also noted in her commentary on the study that “although there has been an increase in the failure rate...the overall picture is better than the evidence from hospital settings –where infections are often more severe –might have suggested.”
Britain’s National Health Service website also responded, noting that over 94 percent of the cases listed as treatment failure (i.e. where the antibiotic was found to be ineffective) do not necessarily “mean that the organism was resistant to the first antibiotic.” Some failures may were said to be attributable to the failure to take “the full prescribed treatment course,” while others were the result of inappropriate medicines being used to treat “the type of bacteria the person had.”
The study, funded by Abbott Healthcare Products, was published in the British Medical Journal, and can be found here.