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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 September, 2003, 03:01 GMT 04:01 UK
Antibiotics crisis 'looming'
Staphylococcus aureus
Bacteria have acquired resistance to drugs
A leading professor is warning of an antibiotics crisis which could lead to thousands of people dying from treatable illnesses.

Professor Hugh McGavock from the University of Ulster has told the BBC "gross overprescribing " by doctors is making many antibiotics useless.

He has estimated that in 12 years all antibiotics could be redundant.

The professor, who specialises in prescribing science, claims the crisis in antibiotics is as big as Aids.

He told Radio Five Live overprescribing in the medical profession and the farming industry over the past 50 years has rendered many antibiotics useless.

He estimates that by 2015, bacteria which cause disease will be resistant to all antibiotics and diseases that are easily treatable now, will be killers.

The professor also claims that the majority of surgery will have to be stopped because antibiotics are needed to perform operations.

As evidence of the crisis already hitting, he points to the emergence of the MRSA superbug now prevalent in hospitals and care homes across the UK.

'No Doomsday'

Professor Roger Finch, a government advisor, agreed that humans are facing a very worrying problem.

But he did not accept it was the Doomsday scenario Prof McGavock describes.

Prof Finch said measures were in place to tackle the resistance to antibiotics to make sure a crisis did not materialise.

New types of antibiotics are being developed which make it tougher for bugs to become immune to them.

They work in the same way as many of the methods which the body itself has always used to rid itself of bacterial infections.

However critics say bacteria will eventually become immune to these drugs and that will make the body's natural resistance less effective.

This could lead to even simple cuts taking longer to heal.

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13 Dec 02  |  Health

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