AN EXPERT microbiologist says there has been "a complete failure at a global level" to address the problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Martin Cormican, Professor of Bacteriology at the School of Medicine at NUI, Galway, said society must change the way it uses antibiotics.
Prof Cormican, pictured, explained how the surge of antibiotic use in the past 70 years has seen bacteria shift and adapt to survive, resulting in huge numbers of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
"The core of the problem is we haven't appreciated how quickly bacteria can adapt and change to the way in which we have changed the natural world by the hundreds of tonnes of antibiotics that we use.
"Some people talk about antibiotic resistant bacteria as superbugs – I think that's a mistake. It suggests that it's the bacteria that is responsible for the change – but I think it's not superbugs, it's dumb people," he said. He said that while there had been some initiatives at a national and EU level, the problem had to be dealt with on a global scale.
"As bad and all as things might be in Europe, in many parts of the world there is no control whatever over antibiotic use. You can walk down to the market and buy whatever antibiotic you want and very close by you have open sewers," he said.
"We have good genetic evidence that a lot of antibiotic resistance problems will come from countries were antibiotics are unregulated. Now we make it worse, we compound that by the way in which we use antibiotics."