When drugs don’t work

Transplant surgery becomes virtually impossible. Organ recipients have to take immune-suppressing drugs for life to stop rejection of a new heart or kidney. Their immune systems cannot fight off life-threatening infections without antibiotics.

Removing a burst appendix becomes a dangerous operation once again. Patients are routinely given antibiotics after surgery to prevent infection. If bacteria get into the bloodstream, they can cause septicaemia.

Pneumonia becomes once more “the old man’s friend”. Antibiotics have stopped it being the mass killer it once was, particularly among the old and frail.

Gonorrhoea becomes hard to treat. Resistant strains are on the rise. Without treatment, the disease causes pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and ectopic pregnancies.

Tuberculosis becomes incurable: first we had TB, then multidrug-resistant TB and now there is XDR-TB (extremely drug-resistant TB).

TB requires long courses of antibiotics. The human tendency to stop or forget to take drugs has contributed to the spread of resistance. —

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