Superbug Concerns Keep Spreading

European Union issues dire warning about the global overuse of antibiotics — which doesn't bode well for us

Antibiotics that work for us or our kids when we have infections may be running out.

Disease and safety experts from the European Union warned this week that superbug bacteria found in people, animals, and food across the E.U. pose an “alarming” threat to public and animal health. The reason: a growing resistance to widely used antibiotics.

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The report was done by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The two organizations said that around 25,000 people die from such superbugs across the European Union every year.

“Antimicrobial resistance is an alarming threat putting human and animal health in danger,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, the E.U.’s health and food safety commissioner, Reuters reported. “We have put substantial efforts to stop its rise, but this is not enough. We must be quicker, stronger and act on several fronts.”

“The pipeline of new antibiotics has nearly run dry,” said one infectious disease expert.

Even Salmonella bacteria — commonly known to cause serious food-borne infections — are seeing high multi-drug resistance across the E.U. And last-resort treatments are showing up at low levels in animals and food, which isn’t a good sign. Researchers say very low levels of resistance were observed in E. coli bacteria found in pigs and in meat from pigs and cattle.

“This new report from the European CDC underscores the growing threat of antibiotic resistance,” said Amesh Adalja, an affiliated scholar with Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Multiple reports from all over the world, he told LifeZette, confirm what experts have been saying since the time of Alexander Fleming: The march of antibiotic resistance will continue unless action is taken. Fleming was the Scottish bacteriologist best known for his 1928 discovery of penicillin. And the action he’s referring to is a decreased dependence on unnecessary antibiotics, both for personal use and prescriptions, as well as in livestock.

Related: The Golden Age of Antibiotics is Over

“Much of modern medicine is dependent on having effective antibiotics — including organ transplantation, chemotherapy, and even routine surgery,” said Adalja. “The pipeline of new antibiotics has nearly run dry. It will be important in the future to pursue other non-traditional strategies for the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections including vaccines, antibody-based therapies, and viruses that attack bacteria.”