The Dangers of Our Pill-Popping Ways; COMMENT

Article excerpt

SIR Alexander Fleming's discovery in 1929 of the first antibiotic, penicillin, is rightly regarded as one of the landmarks in the history of modern medicine. Millions of lives have been saved by antibiotics ever since. But for decades now overworked, and at times downright irresponsible, Irish GPs have been overprescribing antibiotics to their patients. As a result we are now reaping a medical whirlwind. Repeated use of antibiotics over time means that the patient becomes immune to that particular antibiotic - and that an even more powerful one is then needed. And whereas only two new types of antibiotic have emerged since 1970, the same cannot be said for the bacteria they fight.

An increasing number of the so-called 'superbugs' have developed resistance to penicillin and other antibiotics. They can - and do - kill. MRSA, for example, has run rampant in Irish hospitals for the best part of a decade now, far outstripping the levels at which other countries have managed to contain it. …