With a cold and flu season on us, some patients will undoubtedly come to their doctors for a prescription for antibiotics, although the drugs are useless against such viral infections.
This misuse and overuse has helped an increasing number of bacteria be resistant to most or all antibiotics – a phenomenon doctors call a crisis because there are no new drugs in the drug pipeline replacing them.
And it is not just patients and doctors who are in charge: decades of liberal use of antibiotics to promote the health of agricultural animals led by our environmental pollution tables by drugs everywhere led to so-called superbugs like MRSA and VRE that have developed resistance to their effects.
"All this is because microbial resistance is a natural phenomenon, a process of bacterial development that has been going on for thousands of years," said Jay Wright, director of the Institute for the Study of Infectious Diseases at McMaster University.
"What's frustrating, of course, is that our excessive use of antibiotics when we do not need them contributes to that choice," he said from Hamilton, Ont. "If we create a situation where we use antibiotics when we do not need, then we create the selective pressures that increase the chances that the bacteria will develop into resistant organisms.
"And that is the issue we are finding now that there are more and more bacteria in the clinic where we use a lot of antibiotics that do not respond to all the drugs we have available to us."
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The difficulty is that the pharmaceutical industry no longer invests time or money in the search for new antibiotics, says Wright, explaining that not only is science "really hard," but the discovery of drugs of any kind is very expensive.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers are not willing to make the average annual expenditure of one billion dollars to develop antibiotics that can cure infection within 5 to 10 days when they can put their resources in drugs to conditions like high cholesterol levels or blood pressure, which are usually taken forever.
Add to that the fact that new antibiotics may be limited to shelf life because the bugs it is designed to treat may develop resistance and there is little incentive, agreed Dr. Andrew Morris, director of the Microbial Responsibility Program in the Chinese Health System and University Health Network in Toronto.
Morris said that the shortage of new antibiotics is also a subject of civil society because people take for granted that these drugs have been widely available since the 1940s.
"Then we can get a cancer remedy that could extend someone's life by six months and it could cost between $ 5,000 and $ 100,000," he said. "And on the other hand, we can get antibiotics that will save someone's life if the weapon costs more than $ 1,000. .
"Affects everyone, everywhere"
A nationwide online survey measuring the knowledge of Canadians on the subject found that 60 percent of respondents mistakenly believed that antibiotic resistance was a person with a drug-resistant infection. Last week, which ends Sunday, Leger survey of more than 1,500 Canadians aged 18 plus also found that 44 percent see resistance as more concern for developing countries.
"Microbial resistance affects everyone, everywhere, and that includes Canada, where it is a more serious concern," Morris said. "It's really a global health problem that justifies collective action."
By 2050, drug-resistant infections are expected to lead to 2.4 million excess deaths in developed countries alone, according to a forecast by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which represents countries such as Canada, Australia, the United States and Britain
Other experts have warned that by this date, the annual death rate due to antibiotic resistance will rise to 10 million worldwide – the dwarf cancer – and the cost of the global economy to 100 trillion US dollars.
"In fact, the worst thing that can happen is that we'll end up the way it was in the twenties and thirties," before the discovery of penicillin, when more people died of infection than any other reason, Wright said.
"There are people who die in Canadian hospitals five years ago that they were not dead [their] Infection, "Wright said.
"It's not necessarily thousands of people, people do not die on the street, there's no zombie apocalypse," he says.
"But we have people in our hospitals that we were unable to handle."
And it's not just those already with infections that can be affected by resistance, he said. "It will come back to a time when you can not do organ transplantation because you are going to be immune to danger for the rest of your life. You will not be able to keep premature babies and treat leukemia.
"The things we think of as completely routine today are going to disappear, or if they do not disappear, very dangerous."
"The biggest health threat"
Both Wright and Morris emphasize concerted action must be taken to stem the tide of resistance, and federal and provincial governments are meant to coordinate innovative programs to encourage the development of antibiotics, to find alternative therapies, to curb overuse.
"We're really at this level of a perfect storm, and it's not all Canadian filter – not every Canadian is affected right now by this – but we get all day Canadians getting affected by it now and it will get worse and worse," Morris said.
"I think the biggest threat to medical care worldwide is completely antimicrobial resistance."