South Africa: SA Hospitals Face Worrying Rise in Drug-Resistant Bacteria and ‘Superbugs’

There has been a further significant increase in drug-resistant bacteria in South African hospitals over the last five years, hampering the ability of doctors to treat a variety of serious and life-threatening infections with antibiotics.

Researchers at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) have highlighted a significant increase in certain antibiotic-resistant bacteria in several public and private hospitals across the country, as well as a dramatic increase in the use of so-called “last resort” antibiotics in public hospitals over the last five years.

The researchers, whose South African case study was published in The Lancet, say the increased procurement of such drugs shows that doctors are increasingly reliant on “reserve” antibiotics. But even some of these last-line-of-defence medicines are losing their ability to fight bacterial infections due to misuse, overuse and other factors.

Study co-author Prof Sabiha Essack, the South African Research Chair in Antibiotic Resistance and One Health and professor in pharmaceutical sciences at UKZN cautioned that: “The significant increase in the procurement and use of reserve antibiotics reveals that the drugs we have available to us as clinicians are becoming less effective at treating infections.

“This is not a situation unique to South Africa, it is a global trend…

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