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Posted on 2nd February 2017

Cancer could become untreatable

The UK’s chief medical officer has warned that cancer could become untreatable after a woman died from a superbug that was resistant to 26 different antibiotics.

Leading the fight against antibiotic resistant infections, Professor Dame Saly Davies warned that more people will die if the world didn’t act now.

The issue is the overuse of antibiotics. Using more antibiotics speeds up the rate in which bacteria evolve and develop, to keep beating them. This makes common infections more difficult to treat. 

Antibiotics are not only used to treat disease. They are used to prevent infection in people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients.

“Imagine a future where cancer is untreatable because chemotherapy is ineffective,” Professor Davies said to the Daily Mirror. “Simple ops like hip replacements and caesareans are very risky because of infection.”

Despite the global effort to cut down on the use of the drugs, last week an American woman died from an infected hip that doctors were unable to treat.

It is believed the seventy year old became infected with a drug-resistant strain of Klebsiella pneumoniae during an operation in India. On return to America it proved untreatable.

Nicholas Thomson, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: “Although this type of bacterium is not common, it is not unique either and the current trajectory for this bacterium is to become more and more resistant to treatments.

“The report highlights international travel and treatment overseas as a feature in the introduction of this pan-resistant isolate into the USA. Since we live in such an interconnected society, this is important because this isolate represents a truly untreatable infection which limits treatment options to principally patient management to prevent ongoing transmission.”

It is estimated by the World Health Organisation that by 2050, drug resistant infections will kill ten million people a year.

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