Resistance to antibiotics
Over my surgical career, I have seen a real change in the way we use antibiotics. Initially, we doled them out at every opportunity, not just to treat, but in the hope of preventing infection from surgery. Today, the situation is very different. We are seeing more and more people resistant to first-line, second-line and even third-line antibiotics, making serious infections harder to cure. The fact is that the more we use antibiotics, the more bacteria will become resistant to them. And if that continues, there will come a time when the nasty chest infection that used to be quickly sorted out with a course of antibiotics, is no longer easily treatable.
Is this a serious risk?
The World Health Organisation thinks that this is a serious risk. It regards antibiotic resistance as a ‘serious threat [that] is no longer a prediction for the future, it is happening right now in every region of the world and has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country.’ It’s definitely a sobering thought.
And it isn’t just antibiotic resistance that is becoming a real issue. We are also seeing individuals come to actual harm from antibiotics, which don’t just kill off the bad bacteria – they kill off the good bacteria in our gut too. This can occasionally lead to life-threatening bowel problems. As a result, we are now extremely careful with our use of antibiotics – limiting them to essential cases.