The unfortunate reality of healthcare is that there are patients who undergo innumerable treatments and every single one of them fails. In those situations, doctors will try their trump card(s), which are quite literally referred to as “Last Resort” antibiotics. These last resort antibiotics, also known as broad spectrum drugs, are used in what we would consider to be worst case scenarios. Broad spectrum drugs are used in two major scenarios. One, is when doctors are not sure which infections they are fighting against, and essentially need to kill off anything and everything that could be causing the problems. Two, is when highly susceptible intensive care patients, cancer treatment patients, or organ transplant patients experience life-threatening infections. These are the drugs that have the highest probability of killing off the infection.
The problem with the broad spectrum drugs is that they are too effective. They work against a huge number of bacterial strains, but in turn increase the probability of antibiotic resistance in the patients taking the antibiotics. Public Health England has been looking into the use of last resort drugs and has noted a significant increase of the use of the drugs in the last five years in England. This is a major concern because the increase of the use of broad spectrum drugs directly counteracts the work that scientists are doing to decrease antibiotic resistance. The ideal amount of time for a patient to be on these drugs is just 2-3 days, but the PHE report has found that while the number of actual broad spectrum prescriptions has followed, the amount of these drugs consumed has increased. This is troubling news because it means that these high-level antibiotics are being prescribed at much high dosages and longer terms than originally intended.
An overall societal increase in antibiotic resistance could be devastating. If all of the antibiotics we have developed become ineffective, surgeries that were once routine will become high risk procedures (think: c-sections and root canals). As Dr. Mike Durkin, the directory of patient safety of England’s National Health Service, says: “Antimicrobial resistance is a major threat to the delivery of healthcare across the globe.”
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