Misuse of antibiotics 'could claim 10 million lives if not tackled'
Widespread overuse of antibiotics could cause the deaths of up to 10 million people by 2050, according to a leading expert.
The misuse will create "potentially catastrophic results" for public health, according to Prof Ramanan Laxminarayan, a senior fellow at Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy in Washington.
He said that unless we think twice about using these drugs for non-lifesaving purposes, deadly superbugs will become more resistant to antibiotics.
The distinguished research scholar said these drugs, which work against only bacteria, cannot be used to treat viral infections, like flu.
He will outline the extent of the threat at the annual O'Brien lecture in UCD this Friday.
It comes as an internal HSE audit warns that ambulances are at risk of spreading superbugs to patients because of poor infection control.
It looked at a sample of ambulances in Kilkenny, north Leinster and Galway and found the prevention and control of healthcare-associated infection was not properly managed.
It said all three regions employed external contractors on an ad hoc basis to deep-clean ambulances. But there was no evidence of monitoring the performance of the cleaning company to ensure the proper protection standards applied.
"There was no definition for what was acceptably clean for an ambulance," it said.
Concerns were also raised about the systems for getting rid of dirty materials.
Frontline staff said they were often misinformed about patients who were suffering infection and were unsure about how to manage them because treatment varied.
If they did not receive full information about a patient's diagnosis this should be reported as a "near miss" but this was not being done.
The HSE said yesterday it is "actively working on" the report's recommendations.
Infection control is incorporated into current and future ambulance staff training.
It is now a standing agenda item at all management and team meetings, said a spokeswoman.