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Surprising Science

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria is Medicine’s Global Warming

England’s highest health bodies have renewed their call for vigilance in the fight to keep antibiotics effective at killing harmful bacteria, comparing the magnitude of the problem to global warming. 

What’s the Latest Development?

The pace at which bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics is alarming, says England’s chief medical officer, who equates the accelerating rate of resistance with global warming. The chief medical officer, Professor Sally Davies, said: “Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at a rate that is both alarming and irreversiblesimilar to global warming. … Bacteria are adapting and finding ways to survive the effects of antibiotics, ultimately becoming resistant so they no longer work. The more you use an antibiotic, the more bacteria become resistant to it.”

What’s the Big Idea?

In an attempt to urge patients and medical professionals to think more carefully about antibiotics, Davies has created a list of dos and don’ts: Do remember antibiotics should be taken only when prescribed by a health professional; don’t share antibiotics with anyone else; do remember that antibiotics cannot help you recover from infections caused by viruses, such as colds or flu. Dr Cliodna McNulty, director of England’s Health Protection Agency said: “We all seem to forget just how awful you can feel with a bad cold, let alone flu, and this maybe makes us think that we are more poorly than we really are and that we need antibiotics to get better.”

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