People are dying from "super bugs" because our antibiotic arsenal is running out of options to fight ever-changing bacteria, warn researchers.
The research team led by Barbara E. Murray, M.D., and Cesar Arias, M.D., Ph.D. claimed that people are also taking antibiotics without prescriptions or not following the prescription as directed.
It is those practices that allow the antibiotics to be exposed to a wide-range of bacteria in the body, both good and bad, which makes it resistant to drugs.
The bacteria can evade antibiotics by destroying the medication by producing an enzyme that devours the drug, creating a barrier to the drug pumping out any antibiotic that reaches the bacterial cell and modifying the target of the antibiotic so the drug can't bind to it.
"We have run out of options," New England Medical Journal quoted Murray as saying.
"The promise of genomics has not panned out. Gene sequencing has not helped us find a better way to fight these bugs.
"Most of the public has heard of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) because it produces the most cases each year.
"However, they have not heard of other super bugs that can be far worse. The Gram-negative bacteria are the most antibiotic-resistant with fewer treatment options in life-threatening diseases, such as certain forms of pneumonia, bloodstream infections, gastroenteritis and even meningitis," she added.
According to the researchers, delay in diagnosis is also an issue. Murray said even with advancements, it takes about 48 hours or more from the time a culture is taken to determine what a person may have contracted and to determine what antibiotics are likely to be effective.
"It may not sound like a lot of time, but with some of these bugs you have to move quickly to save a patient. You don't want the bacteria to spread. Research needs to include finding new testing methods," she said.
"Academics can't do it all. Pharmaceutical companies can't do it all. Everyone needs to work together to address this potential worldwide public health crisis," said Arias, co-author of the perspective and assistant professor in infectious diseases at the medical school.
The researchers now aims to investigate the clinical and molecular aspects of antibiotic resistance, attempting to understand the complex mechanisms by which bugs become resistant to antibiotics and then designing new strategies to combat them.
"We are struggling, really struggling to treat patients around the world. If something isn't done soon, more and more bugs are going to gain the upper-hand," said Murray.
"There are simply not enough new drugs to keep pace with antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. We are sounding the alarm, and hopefully the world will hear it," she added.