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Graphic by Rebecca Hardiment.

The day may come when a sinus infection is more deadly than cancer. Over the past few years there has been a growing awareness to the problem of antimicrobial resistance. On Nov. 17 the Government of Canada issued a press release announcing that nine million dollars will be given to the World Health Organization to combat the rise of antimicrobial resistance.

The problem has seen a dramatic increase over the past 10 years, especially in the cases of gonorrhea and C.difficile. Statistics Canada released a report on antimicrobial resistance cases in Canada this past September.

The main cause of antimicrobial resistance is attributed to the fact that most illnesses have been treated with the same antibiotics for decades. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013 says that around 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed in the United States are not necessary.

Graphic by Rebecca Hardiment. Information gathered from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2013 report on antibiotic resistance and the World Health Organization's 2014 Global Report on Surveillance on antimicrobial resistance.

Graphic by Rebecca Hardiment. Information gathered from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) 2013 report on antibiotic resistance and the World Health Organization’s 2014 Global Report on Surveillance on antimicrobial resistance.

“The problem now [is that] some bugs are becoming resistant to all our antibiotics, and we’re running out of effective ones” says third year medical student at University of Toronto Andrew Rouble. Rouble, who is also a part of the Students for Antimicrobial Stewardship Society (SASS), adds that because diseases like gonorrhea have been treated with antibiotics for so long resistance is inevitable. “Overuse just hastens the process,” he says.

Unfortunately the business of developing new antibiotics is not a lucrative one. Rouble explained that since antibiotics only need to be taken for very short periods of time, the pay off for drug companies is minimal compared to drugs taken for chronic illnesses. The result is that there is very little in terms of discovery being made in the field of antibiotics. In early 2015 the Journal of Nature reported that the first new class of antibiotic was discovered in nearly 30 years.

In Canada the 10 most prescribed antibiotics were all discovered at least 35 years ago.

Antimircobial resistance is already a global issue and lack of knowledge may be attributed to the growing problem. Canada had the highest levels of antibiotic knowledge out of 16 countries surveyed by the European Commission in 2016.

While the majority of the countries surveyed indicated people should only stop taking antibiotics when they complete their course of treatment, responses from two countries reflected the mindset that people should stop taking antibiotics when they feel better. According to the World Health Organization, stopping antibiotic treatment early risks leaving behind bacteria that will mutate and become resistant.

In order to counteract resistance the CDC finds that preventing the spread of infection is the first line of defence, adding that physicians should prescribe antibiotics conservatively. Finally the CDC says that there should be more diagnostic tests and development of new antibiotics.

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