independent

Wednesday 17 July 2019

McNeive enlisted in battle against antibiotic resistance

Kate Egan of RTÉ News, Dame Sally Davies, Paul McNeive
Kate Egan of RTÉ News, Dame Sally Davies, Paul McNeive

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, who is leading the fight against antimicrobial resistance, has enlisted the help of Bray novelist Paul McNeive, in battling the worldwide crisis.

It is estimated that over 700,000 people die every year worldwide from infections that no longer respond to treatment.

Resistant infections occur when microbes, for example bacteria, evolve to withstand the treatment we use to kill them.

The rise of resistance is a natural phenomenon but it is escalated by human action, for example the overuse of antibiotics by the public, and the unnecessary use of antibiotics in agriculture and the food-chain.

Poor hygiene and overcrowding in some hospitals also exacerbates the problem as this leads to more infections, many of which are becoming resistant.

Professor Dame Sally Davies has warned of a potential 'post-antibiotic apocalypse' and cautioned that the National Health Service may in the future have to reconsider providing operations such as hip transplants and caesarean sections, due to the risk of untreatable infections.

Author Paul McNeive, who lost his legs in a fire aged 20, has personal experience of the problem.

McNeive said that while walking on prosthetic legs, he sometimes developed infections in his skin grafts.

'Throughout the 80s, 90s and noughties, I regularly took antibiotics, which quickly solved the problem. However, over the last decade, I discovered that various types of antibiotics were no longer working, because the infections had become immune.'

His research in the area inspired his debut novel 'The Manhattan Project' in which terrorists further increase the consumption of antibiotics, before introducing an untreatable infection.

The book is a best seller in Ireland and is published in the UK and other European countries.

Professor Dame Sally Davies said: 'For many, it is hard to relate to the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and this is largely due to a lack of patient faces.

'People like Paul, who have first-hand experience of the problem, are crucial in helping the public understand the horror of AMR and what we face if we don't sort it.

'When I get some down time, I really enjoy reading thrillers, so was delighted to read "The Manhattan Project".

'This book does a fantastic job of conveying the very serious threat of AMR in a captivating way. I highly recommend it.'

Paul McNeive has agreed to partake in a series of initiatives on the issue which are being arranged by the Chief Medical Officer.

To become an 'antibiotic guardian', go to antibioticguardian.com.

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