To treat the common cold the world often turns to antibiotics, after all, most of us are too time poor to properly nurse a cold — we want it gone and we want it gone now. And while we might liken antibiotics to superman, our global dependency on antibiotics is at dangerous levels, levels too high for even Superman to save us.
The World Health Organisation has recently warned the overuse of antibiotics is creating dangerously high resistance levels, calling the rise a “global crisis.”
Margaret Chan, the global director of the WHO said the world is heading towards a “post-antibiotic era” in which common infections could once again claim lives.
Our dependence has also created an increase in ‘superbugs’, which are highly contagious and immune to antibiotic treatment.
The U.S is currently dealing with the rise of a ‘superbug’, dubbed the “phantom menace” as reported on Thursday. This particular strain of bacteria is a type of Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), which are dangerous because they typically are highly antibiotic-resistant and have high mortality rates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
WHO also conducted a survey in mostly developing countries including Nigeria, Vietnam, and India and found that sixty-four per cent of respondents wrongly though antibiotics would treat cold and flu viruses and almost a third thought they could stop taking antibiotics once they felt better and it was not necessary to complete the course. Misuse and a misunderstanding of antibiotics is not contained to developing states as ‘superbugs’ can travel in stomachs and can be highly contagious on planes when people cough or sneeze.
A recent study in China has also disturbed experts after finding a strain of E. coli resistant to “last-resort” antibiotics. In the study, researchers noted “a major increase of colistin resistance,” and a strain of E. coli that could transfer this resistance to other strains.
The main message from experts is to reduce our reliance on antibiotics and to wash your hands regularly. There is also a call to improve education surrounding antibiotics.
If your GP does not recommend antibiotics, it might just be a good idea to take that sick day.