A LEADING health specialist has warned that Irish people take too many antibiotics – as the UK chief medical officer likened their overuse to a "ticking time bomb".
Professor Sally Davies said the problem was so serious it should be put on the UK National Risk Register – which also includes "catastrophic terrorist attacks" and other civil emergencies.
Reacting to her comments Dr Kevin Kelleher, pictured, head of health protection in the Health Service Executive (HSE) said: "I may not use the same colourful language, but I agree with what she says."
He added: "Ireland is one of the highest consumers of antibiotics in Europe, although we are not at the extreme end.
"But there are no new antibiotics coming on stream and we have to protect the ones we have."
The overuse of antibiotics means that a growing number of these drugs no longer work against powerful infections.
Prof Davies said routine operations such as hip replacements could become deadly in just 20 years time if we lose the ability to fight infection.
The problem is "as important as climate change for the world" and she urged the UK government to raise the issue at the G8 summit in London next month.
Dr Kelleher commented: "We in Ireland have indicated over the last decade that we have a major problem in relation to antibiotic resistance.
"Every November we organise a campaign on the prudent use of antibiotics. Have no doubt that it is a major issue."
She said that there had been a "discovery void" in the field since 1987 and pharmaceutical companies needed to be incentivised to develop new antibiotics.