Scientists are increasingly growing concerned about drug-resistant bacteria. With no breakthroughs in the realm of antibiotics, many fear that, within the next two decades, patients may visit hospitals for ground-breaking surgeries, only to die from routine infections because there are no more antibiotics potent enough to defeat them.
The sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea has recently made headlines because research has shown that strains of the illness are resistant to all but the last resort of antibiotics. However, Brad Spellberg from the University of California, Los Angeles said to U.S. News and World Report, "Gonorrhea is late to the party-the concern over that has just started in the last year or so. I think we'll see pan-resistance in the next few years, but there are other bugs that have been resistant for much longer."
As he writes in his editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, Spellberg suggests that there needs to be several methods implemented to target the problem. First of all, as the Guardian notes, much of the problem lies in the fact that few antibiotics have been researched and developed since the 1980s. That is because pharmaceutical companies have shifted their focus to creating drugs that target chronic conditions, like heart disease, for which patients need treatment for decades. Spellberg suggests that governments create greater incentives for developing antibiotics, that doctors only use antibiotics when necessary and that more effort is created at preventing bacterial infection in the first place.
Sallie Davis, the United Kingdom's chief of medicine, is so worried about the threat of antibiotic resistance that she urged the country's Ministers of Parliament to add the problem to the nation's risk register of civil emergencies. She stated that the increase in drug-resistant diseases could set off a national emergency comparable to a pandemic flu, coastal flooding or even a terrorist attack.
However, the BBC reports that sources for the problem also lie in the simple nature of our more globalized world. Travelers head to locales where tuberculosis remains a threat and bring back the disease with them.