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E. coli and a culture of resistant bacteria, Photo: Manfred Rohde, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung, HZI/Håkan Lindgren/Scanpix

Antibiotic resistant bacteria on the increase

Updated 13:35

The number of cases of ordinary diseases no longer treatable with ordinary antibiotics is increasing in Sweden. Swedish Radio News reports that last year nearly 6,000 people here were discovered to be carrying an enzyme called ESBL, that breaks down antibiotics. That is a 14 percent increase over the year before.

Olle Aspevall, senior physician at the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control, tells Swedish Radio News that even ordinary urinary tract infections may have to be treated with intravenous antibiotics during daily visits to the hospital, rather than just taking tablets.

Otto Cars, head of the international network ReAct, Action on Antibiotic Resistance, says the problem is serious.

"We’ve seen this trend for many many years", he says, "and you can almost call it a global epidemic, or maybe even a pandemic. The bacteria that contain this kind of ESBL are spreading rapidly, which causes many problems for treatment.  If infections can’t be fought, patients can die."

The good news, Otto Cars says, is that MRSA bacteria are no longer being spread in hospitals.

"This is because hygiene in the healthcare system has been greatly improved", he says. "On the other hand, the spread of the bacteria outside hospitals must be taken seriously. Otherwise, we’re going to have serious problems treating common wounds, where we would usually use ordinary penicillin."

He says the way the way to slow down the trend is through global action to reduce the use of antibiotics, improve hygiene in the healthcare system, and above all, produce new medicines.

"The important thing is for researchers to work together to find new antibiotics. But this presents many scientific challenges. What is needed, is a whole new approach, just like what was done in the 1940’s, when penicillin was developed."

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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