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Scientists Warn Of ‘Apocalyptic’ Drug-Resistant World

Antibiotic-resistant diseases

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A new AIDS epidemic could be just the beginning of an apocalyptic-type increase in the number of antibiotic-resistant diseases. That’s the latest warning from Professor Jeremy Farrar, one of the world’s leading authorities on infectious diseases.

“It is not unreasonable that a HIV pandemic could return,” Farrar told the UK newspaper The Independent. “The possibility of a resistantly-driven HIV pandemic is quite real.”

Farrar is a professor of tropical medicine at Oxford University and director of the Welcome Trust, one of the world’s largest research organizations.

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, soon could develop resistance [1] to the antiviral drugs that control it and allow some victims to lead normal lives, Farrar predicted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that around 47,500 people became infected [2] with HIV in the United States in 2010.

Just the Tip of the Iceberg?

But a drug-resistant AIDS could be just the tip of the iceberg. In a recent article in the journal Nature, Farrar wrote that that a “post-antibiotic world” in which diseases [3] spread unchecked could soon become a reality.

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“Drugs that were once lifesavers are now worthless,” Farrar and Mark Woolhouse wrote. “Every class of antibiotic is increasingly compromised by resistance, as are many antivirals, anti-parasitic and antifungal drugs.”

Woolhouse is a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Some of the highlights of Nature article include:

Britain’s Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, actually labeled the situation “apocalyptic” and it is easy to see why.

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Two million Americans are already infected with antibiotic-resistant [5] bacteria. Around 23,000 Americans die from antibiotic-resistant infections each year, the CDC estimated.

Around 4.6 of the patients in the US medical system are infected with one of the nastiest antibiotic resistant bacteria strains of MRSA, Forbes writer Paul Rodgers noted.


New epidemics and pandemics could be just the start of the nightmare in the post-antibiotic world, Farrar and Woolhouse predicted.

“It could get worse: routine medical care, surgery, cancer treatment, organ transplants and industrialized agriculture would be impossible in their present form without antimicrobials [antibiotic drugs],” they wrote. “And the treatment of many infectious human and livestock diseases now relies on just one or two drugs.”

Are you concerned about diseases growing antibiotic-resistant? Let us know in the comments below. 

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