It sounds like the plot of a futuristic movie – a world where a paper cut could prove deadly.
But that’s the future we could be facing because of antibiotic resistance.
It’s an issue that has already been highlighted by a top UK medical expert, who said the growing danger should be ranked alongside terrorism as a threat to the nation.
The World Health Organisation has estimated that antimicrobial-resistant infections currently claim at least 50,000 lives each year across Europe and the US.
And a Government-commissioned review of the global antibiotic resistance crisis, commissioned by the UK Government, has warned that antibiotic resistant superbugs will kill more people than cancer annually by 2050. This would mean around 10m deaths across the world, more than the 8.2m expected to die from cancer.
The effects are already in evidence, such as the outbreak of a highly drug-resistant strain of gonorrhoea which was centred on Leeds last autumn.
One of the main treatments for the sexually transmitted infection, the antibiotic azithromycin, was useless against this strain.
Now, Leeds health bosses have launched an innovative campaign to remind people of the dangers and understand how they can fight them.
Posters have been springing up all over the city, while an online quiz enables users to find out how geared up for the future they are.
Dr Gaye Sheerman-Chase, GP at Craven Road Medical Centre and medicines optimisation lead at NHS Leeds West Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We hope our novel approach helps to educate people to the risks we’re facing. Many healthcare professionals are concerned about the threat of antibiotics resistance which means that common infections could become untreatable.
“In fact a number of commentators, including the Government’s Chief Medical Officer, have stated that antibiotics resistance is as big a risk as terrorism.”
The main causes of infections becoming resistant to antibiotics are using antibiotics when they are not needed, not taking them as prescribed – this allows time for the bacteria to become resistant, not finishing the full course and sharing antibiotics with others.
She added: “We need to act now so that we can continue to give everyone the best chance to make a recovery should they fall ill. Everyone has a part to play. For example you don’t need and shouldn’t expect antibiotics for coughs and colds. Also if you’ve been prescribed any treatments it’s important you complete the course.”
* For more information, to take the quiz and download resources, visit www.seriouslyresistant.com.
Antibiotics won’t usually cure or shorten the duration of common health conditions such as sore throats, coughs, colds and earaches. Pharmacists can advise on self-care advice for these conditions or recommend over the counter medication.
Using antibiotics when you don’t need them may mean that they won’t work for you when you do need them.
Antibiotic resistant bacterial infections will last longer, are more likely to lead to complications and patients remain infectious for longer.