A new government review called for new diagnostic tests to stop unnecessary antibiotic use and curb the growing problem on superbugs.
Economist Jim O’Neill, former chair of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, led the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance and warned about the “huge cost to society” posed by antibiotic resistance caused by their misuse, such as in treating viral infections like flu.
It’s an ideal growth pad for superbugs, warned O’Neill, who urged the creation of more refined tests to allow physicians to instantly identify the bacterial strain and prescribe more precise narrow-spectrum antibiotics.
“[We need] to avoid the tragedy of 10 million people dying every year by 2050,” said O’Neill, who recommended giving patients the right treatment and making drugs last longer by cutting down on huge unnecessary medication.
A study disclosed that over two-thirds of antibiotic courses in the United States, which translates to about 27 million, were probably due to inappropriate prescriptions, such as for viruses or non-infections.
The review also found that decisions tended to favor using a drug than a diagnostic – even if it had graver consequences. In the United Kingdom, older, neglected first-line treatments are outdone by “last-line” ones for precaution in gonorrhea patients even though up to 80 percent would likely respond to the former.
Another facet of the problem is that drug companies are not commercially interested in rapid diagnostics, which would reduce antibiotic prescriptions.
The report proposed a market-based revenue stream to align interests of product developers and the public, as well as funding for early-stage research. It will publish its final recommendations spring of 2016.
World Health Organization director-general Dr. Margaret Chan added that antibiotics, whice are rarely prescribed based on “a definitive diagnosis,” should be gauged if necessary in a particular case through rapid, low-cost, easily accessible process.
Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, echoed the need for these rapid diagnostics and called for coordinated international action “before it is too late.”
Antibiotics either kill bacteria or stop them from reproducing before the body’s natural defenses take over. They should be taken properly and the medication cycle should be completed to prevent bacterial survival and re-infection.
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