Currently, 700,000 people a year die because their conditions are resistant to the antibiotics traditionally administered to tackle them, and this figure will rise to 10 million within decades unless a solution is found.
who become infected, especially older, frail patients.
In Ireland, progress has been made in reducing the level of infections caused by organisms that were a significant concern a decade ago. Superbugs such as MRSA haven’t gone away, but the number of patients infected during hospital stays has declined steadily.
However, the ground on which the battle against antibiotic resistance is fought constantly changes, and so new organisms have emerged to create problems in the overcrowded, overstretched Irish health system.
Worryingly, the threat they pose is ever greater, because many of them are resistant to all but the most potent antibiotics and they are difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate.
Of particular concern is the emergence of what is termed carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE), which results in some cases of bacteria being resistant to all conventionally-used antibiotics. The carbapenemases are enzymes that work by inactivating antibiotics.