Drug-resistant superbugs cause as many as half of post-surgical infections and a quarter of post-chemotherapy infections, according to a new study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Researchers, led by Ramanan Laxminarayan, Ph.D., director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, analyzed literature reviews on post-surgical antibiotics for the 10 most common procedures in the United States. The analysis found antibiotic-resistant bacteria accounted for 51 percent of infections after pacemaker implants, 27 percent of infections after chemotherapy for blood cancer and 39 percent of infections after cesarean sections.
If antibiotics' efficacy drops by 30 percent, driven by factors such as overuse, the healthcare system could be looking at 120,000 more surgical site and post-chemotherapy infections and 6,300 more deaths every year, according to the study.
A September report found inappropriate antibiotic use has driven alarming rates of antibiotic resistance worldwide, with overuse high even in low- and middle-income nations. A 2014 report described antibiotic-resistant superbugs as a "looming global crisis" that, if not properly addressed, will kill 10 million people annually, FierceHealthcare previously reported.
"A lot of common surgical procedures and cancer chemotherapy will be virtually impossible if antibiotic resistance is not tackled urgently," Laxminarayan said in a statement about the study, according to the Guardian. "All of us at some point have to get a surgery or a root canal or a transplant, or perhaps go through chemo at some point in our lives. But how well these turn out depends on how well the antibiotics used to keep infections away during surgery work."
To address the problem, Laxminarayan said, physicians need further training on appropriate use of antibiotics and post-surgical infection prevention, while patients must make sure their vaccinations are up to date.