Wednesday, September 11, 2019

“Disease X”

The SOYMB blog has previously posted on the threat of the over-use of anti-biotics will result in an increased rate of immunity to them by bacteria. Another report just out confirms this threat.

Bacteria are increasingly developing ways of resisting antibiotics, threatening a future in which patients could become untreatable, doctors have warned. The changes in bacteria are driven by genetics and mean they become able to repel even entire types of “last resort” antibiotics, including carbapenems and colistin.

For example, in 2016 an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhoea emerged, which posed a major challenge for hospital doctors and sexual health experts seeking to treat those affected. Over the same period no fewer than 12 new diseases and infections have been detected in England for the first time. These include swine flu, first detected in the UK in 2009, Ebola (2014) and the Zika virus (2014), but also lesser-known diseases such as Rift Valley fever (2013), Middle East respiratory virus (2012) and Monkeypox (2018).

Scientists reportedtheir discovery of a new strain of group A streptococcus bacteria. Experts say it may explain the big rise since 2016 in the number of children being affected by scarlet fever and throat infections, and warned that in some cases it can result in sepsis or toxic shock.

“Infectious diseases don’t stand still. Bacteria are locked in an evolution race with antibiotics, constantly evolving new ways to avoid their impact,” said Sharon Peacock, the director of Public Health England’s (PHE) national infection service.

Prof Chris Witty, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said: “Despite our arsenal of vaccines and antimicrobials, infectious diseases remain a real threat to public health. We are constantly faced with new threats, and antimicrobial resistance is growing.”

Potential threats to health include the risk that globalisation and growing antimicrobial resistance may combine at some point to produce a global pandemic involving a previously unknown bug – what experts call the “Disease X” scenario.

According to official estimates, there were 52,971 antibiotic-resistant infections recorded across the UK in 2015 and 2,172 deaths that were due to the person developing such an infection. In addition almost 80 disability-adjusted life years per 100,000 people in England were lost to antibiotic-resistant infections. That captures the number of years in which someone has suffered poor health or disability, or died earlier than expected.

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