We’ve heard it in the media for a while now, that the overuse of antibiotics is now creating super bugs that are resistant to treatment.

With doctors conducting research and catching on, patients will now see signs and pamphlets in many clinics and GP offices. But how serious is it really?

Unfortunately, this antibiotic resistance means a lot more than infections lasting a little longer. In fact, it is one of the largest threats to health globally as it can affect people of all ages and in any country. To give you some numbers, a piece published in the Medical Journal of Australia quoted that around 1600 people die each year in Australia due to antibiotic resistance. The authors of the piece also estimated that the situation will get worse until 2050 where deaths from treatable infection could surpass total deaths caused by cancer.

The issue we face today

The current overuse of antibiotics is contributing to the rise of golden staph cases that occur outside of hospitals. A study that was led by the Australian National University found that while the rate of antibiotic resistant golden staph outbreaks has declined in hospitals, efforts to control outbreaks in the community are needed.

Staphylococcus is a common bacteria living on the skin and in the nose of individuals. It can be spread via skin to skin contact, coming into contact with contaminated surfaces, open wounds that are left uncovered and not washing hands thoroughly. The bacteria can cause mild to severe or even deadly infections after entering the body. Those most at risk include those in aged care facilities, young people and Indigenous Australians.

How could this affect procedures in the future

If antibiotics become unreliable, procedures that are now routine will pose serious threats to patients. Many elements of medical care would have to change, and possibly revert back to practices that were used before antibiotics were introduced. Some procedures will then be too dangerous to perform, such as chemotherapy, joint replacement, major surgery and transplants.

What can we do

In order to help the situation, it’s important to come at it from all angles. Not only do doctors themselves need to limit the amount of prescriptions they write for antibiotics, it’s important the government help to spread further education on the issue and for communities to educate themselves and know the risks associated with any medicine they choose to take.