World on verge of drug resistant red plague, warn experts

Updated: Mar 18, 2013, 11:52 AM IST

Melbourne: A new plague of antibiotic resistant infections may emerge with even common urinary tract infections now resistant to conventional treatment, Australia`s superbug experts have warned.

They noted that powerful intravenous antibiotics are now being used to beat urinary tract infections that previously could be treated simply with a pill, reported.

And unless the government regulates antibiotic use medical advances like organ transplants, joint replacements and critical care medicine will be under threat from rampant infections, the stated.

Doctors are warning that these superbugs, which are being called the "red plague" because antibiotic bugs stain red under a microscope, could soon represent the same threat as a plague like the Black Death.

Professor David Looke, the president of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases, said that common E. coli infections that cause 80 per cent of urinary tract infections are now resistant to multiple antibiotics.

Writing in Medical Journal of Australia, he said the proportion of E. coli bugs in Australia that were multi-drug resistant rose from 4.5 per cent in 2008 to 7.2 per cent in 2010.

Most people thought antibiotic resistant bugs were caught in a hospital setting but now they were being acquired in the community, he said.

Up to 30 per cent of the staphylococcus bacteria that cause common boil infections acquired in the community were now also resistant to penicillin, he said.

Many forms of sexually acquired gonorrhea were also resistant to most antibiotics.

He blamed the overuse of antibiotics in humans and in animals and farming practices for these growing resistances to treatments.

In India 100-200 million people were thought to harbour antibiotic resistant bacteria. In Asia antibiotics were injected into eggs, used in prawn and chicken farms.

Moreover, pharmaceutical companies have stopped developing new antibiotics that might beat superbug infections, he added.

Infectious diseases experts have suggested that government must set up a new regulatory body that would have control of the use of antibiotics in humans, animals and farming.

Government must also work with the pharmaceutical industry to encourage them to research new antibiotics, Looke concluded.