A recent study has shown that common antibiotics such as ampicillin do not work in more than half of all cases of urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by E. coli.
Since the discovery of penicillin in 1928, antibiotics have had a major impact on both quality of life and life expectancy, which rose from 42 years in 1960 to upwards of 70 years just seven years later, following the introduction of penicillin G and streptomycin. More recently, however, factors such as over-prescription by GPs and failure of patients to complete the full course have led to the emergence of new strains that are resistant to the once-effective treatment.
Children receive a disproportionately high number of antibiotics—about 80% of all those prescribed—and are often responsible for the spread of infection within communities. Accordingly, researchers from Bristol University and Imperial College London sought to evaluate the prevalence of antibiotic resistance in E. coli-derived UTIs (one of the most common bacterial infections encountered in primary care) within this key demographic. In wealthier countries, resistance to ampicillin was found to be 53.4%; in those outside the OECD, it was a staggering 79.8%. The scientists concluded that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is just as prevalent in children as in adults.
These findings are in line with a worrying new trend of antibiotic resistance. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 report, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are responsible for 2 million infections and at least 23,000 deaths each year in the US alone. The World Health Organisation, meanwhile, has stated that AMR could claim the lives of up to 10 million people annually in the decades to come.
In light of these risks, scientists, GPs and public health officials are all working to combat the phenomenon. As a spokesperson for the Department of Health said, “We have already seen GPs across England reducing prescribing over the last few years, and we’ve invested millions in research to tackle drug resistance, but there is more to be done by all sides.”
Photo: Rocky Mountain Laboratories