Two-thirds of all prescriptions for antibiotics are being made for conditions the drugs can`t treat. Antibiotics target only bacterial infections, but doctors are handing them out for viral diseases, a new report has discovered.
This inappropriate use is creating a culture of superbugs that are immune to antibiotics, and which could plunge medicine back into the dark ages, says UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who set up the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance.
The review cites the example of the sexually-transmitted disease of gonorrhoea, for which doctors already prescribe the most powerful antibiotics, and which should be held in reserve. Yet, 80 per cent of cases would respond to penicillin.
In its recommendations, the review wants doctors to use tests to establish whether an infection is bacterial or viral before prescribing any drug.
Most current diagnostic tests take at least 36 hours before an accurate result can be obtained, which is impractical for most surgeries which have a fast turn round of patients who expect to walk out with a prescription.
But, says Lord Jim O`Neill, chairman of the review, simple tests such as C-reactive protein (CRP) blood tests already exist, and they can give an immediate indication whether an infection is viral or bacterial.
The longer-term problem is that drug companies are not researching or developing new, and more powerful, antibiotics, mainly because they don`t see any profit in it. The review has already proposed a global innovation fund of $2bn which could contribute to research costs.
(Source: BBC, October 23rd, 2015)