British Prime Minister David Cameron Warns us of the Growing Crisis of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

While Canada and the United States were celebrating national holidays last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron was hard at work addressing the problem of antibiotic resistance. He announced that Britain would be taking a lead role in trying to solve what he says is a global crisis:

“We are in danger of going back to the dark ages of medicine to see infections that were treatable not be treatable and we would see many thousands of people potentially die from these infections. So it’s a very, very, serious problem and one that we have to grip, and we have to grip it globally because this is a problem that’s going to affect every country in the world.”

In concrete terms we are returning to an era when many women died after childbirth after developing a simple bacterial infection, and where a whole raft of surgical procedures would be imperiled, from hip replacements to cancer chemotherapy and organ transplants.

In an interview with London’s Guardian newspaper Cameron went on to say that, “When we’ve had these problems in the past, whether it is how we tackle HIV and Aids, how it is possible to lead the world and get rid of diseases like polio, Britain has taken a lead and I think it is right we take a lead again.”

Cameron is not going out a limb on this; rather, he is giving political voice and leadership to a growing global crisis identified as such by the world’s leading scientific bodies such as the World Health Organization who announced this year that it’s “…a problem so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine. A post-antibiotic era – in which common infections and minor injuries can kill – far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st Century.”

So, too, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections;” the Public Health Agency of Canada: “More than 200,000 patients get infections every year while receiving healthcare in Canada; more than 8,000 of these patients die as a result;” and the New England Journal of Medicine: “arguably the greatest risk . . . to human health comes in the form of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

So Cameron is exactly right to do what he did. Now imagine the traction we could get if Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama would add their voices as well.

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