London, September 19 : Medical experts have warned that antibiotic resistance is growing so enormously that it may become very difficult to carry out major surgeries, organ transplantation, and cancer chemotherapy in the near future.
In an editorial in the British Medical Journal, Professor Otto Cars and colleagues call for a concerted global response to address rising rates of bacterial resistance caused by the use and abuse of antibiotics.
They argue, if necessary steps are not taken to deal with this problem, "we will return to the pre-antibiotic era".
According to them, antibiotics' use diminishes their ability to be used in the future, and such medications cannot be considered to be a renewable source.
They point out that existing antibiotics are losing their effect at an alarming pace, while the development of new antibiotics is declining.
The authors highlight the fact that over a dozen new classes of antibiotics were developed between 1930 and 1970, but only two new classes have been developed since then.
Despite the World Health Organisation calling for a massive effort to address the problem of antimicrobial resistance to prevent the "health catastrophe of tomorrow" as far back as 2000, say the authors, very little has been done to address the problem.
They also say that even though there are alarming reports about serious consequences of antibiotic resistance from all around the world, there is still a dearth of data on its economic impact on individuals, health care, and society.
This may explain why there has been little response to this public health threat from politicians, public health workers, and consumers, they suggest.
The authors further state that a lack of incentives for developing new antibiotics also accounts for the problem.
They believe that priority must be given to the most urgently needed antibiotics, and incentives given for developing antibacterials with new mechanisms of action.
"(In addition) the use of new antibiotics must be safeguarded by regulations and practices that ensure rational use, to avoid repeating the mistakes we have made by overusing the old ones", they say.
They also recommend educating people to understand that their choice to use an antibiotic will affect the possibility of effectively treating bacterial infections in other people.
However, the authors say that the ultimate responsibility for coordination and resources rests with national governments, WHO and other international stakeholders.
Not only is there an urgent need for up-to-date information on the level of antibiotic resistance, but also for evidence of effective interventions for the prevention and control of antibiotic resistance at national and local levels, while more focus is needed on infectious diseases, they conclude.