Antibiotic resistance could make c-sections, transplants and chemotherapy too dangerous to perform

Salmonella, seen growing on a petri dish, is one of 12 antibiotic-resistant bacteria listed by the World Health Organisation as posing the greatest threat to human health. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP

Salmonella, seen growing on a petri dish, is one of 12 antibiotic-resistant bacteria listed by the World Health Organisation as posing the greatest threat to human health. Photograph: Elaine Thompson/AP

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a list of the 12 bacteria which pose the greatest threat to human health because they are resistant to antibiotics.

The most critical group includes multi-drug resistant bacteria that pose a particular threat in hospitals and nursing homes. The bacteria on this list can cause severe and often deadly infections such as bloodstream infections and pneumonia. Other increasingly drug-resistant bacteria, which are deemed high and medium priority, cause more common diseases such as gonorrhoea and food poisoning caused by salmonella.

Health experts have previously warned that resistance to the drugs that are used to fight infections could cause a bigger threat to mankind than cancer.

Commenting on the publication of the list, Tim Jinks, head of drug resistant infections at the Wellcome Trust, said: “This priority pathogens list, developed with input from across our community, is important to steer research in the race against drug resistant infection – one of the greatest threats to modern health.

“Without effective drugs, doctors cannot treat patients. Within a generation, without new antibiotics, deaths from drug resistant infection could reach 10m a year. Without new medicines to treat deadly infection, lifesaving treatments like chemotherapy and organ transplant, and routine operations like caesareans and hip replacements will be potentially fatal.”

If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, key medical procedures – including organ transplantation, caesarean sections, joint replacements and chemotherapy – could become too dangerous to perform.

About 700,000 people around the world die annually due to drug-resistant infections and, if no action is taken, it has been estimated that such infections will kill 10m people a year by 2050.

This link on The Guardian lists the order of the bacteria – near bottom of page – and has additional information.

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