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Cancer patients could be hit by rise of drug-resistant infections

25 October 2018 09:26

Antibiotic resistance has increased in recent years

Antibiotic resistance has increased in recent years

Modern medicine could go "back to the dark ages" because of the rise of drug-resistant infections, health officials have warned.

Public Health England (PHE) has launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of patients taking antibiotics when they don't need them.

A recent report shows that bloodstream infections caused by resistance to one or more key antibiotics have risen by 35% in just four years - up from 12,250 in 2013 to 16,504 in 2017.

And this could be dangerous for cancer patients, as without effective antibiotics standard cancer treatments would become life-threatening.

Reduce infections

England's chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, warned that, "without swift action to reduce infections, we are at risk of putting medicine back in the dark ages".

PHE said that antibiotics are essential for treating serious bacterial infections and for preventing infections after surgical procedures including caesarean sections and hip and knee replacements.

But research suggests that more than a third (38%) of people who seek medical care for a cough, flu or a throat, ear, sinus or chest infection - which usually get better without medication - expect to receive an antibiotic.

The health body's latest campaign reminds people that if they are feeling unwell "antibiotics aren't always needed", and they should always adhere to a health professional's advice on antibiotic use.

Preserve antibiotics

PHE's medical director Professor Paul Cosford said: "It's concerning that, in the not-too-distant future, we may see more cancer patients, mothers who've had caesareans and patients who've had other surgery facing life-threatening situations if antibiotics fail to ward off infections."

"We need to preserve antibiotics for when we really need them, and we are calling on the public to join us in tackling antibiotic resistance by listening to your GP, pharmacist or nurse's advice and only taking antibiotics when necessary."

The campaign was launched after a powerful group of MPs implored the Government to put antimicrobial resistance back on its main policy agenda.

The Health Select Committee urged ministers to address the subject after it was suggested that antimicrobial resistance was no longer one of the Government's key priorities, despite having been a "top five" issue under David Cameron.

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