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Perish or prevent?

Posted 20/05/2016 - By Harley Farmer

Antibiotics are often used when we want them rather than need them with bacterial resistance being the inevitable outcome.

This week a UK Government commissioned report emphasised how badly we need new antibiotics. The authors provided urgency by predicting how many people will die every year if we don’t have new antibiotics in 20 years.

What about now? Tens of thousands of people will die in 2016 around the world from needless infections they catch in hospitals. There was at least one antibiotic that would have worked for each of them so there’s something more fundamental to consider than bacterial resistance.

I find those deaths reprehensible when it’s so easy to prevent hospital infections.

What grants me the credibility to offer such statements? My chapter in the recently published textbook Infection Prevention and Control; perceptions and perspectives.

Why would the editors of such a globally important book want my contribution?

I used to give lectures at international infection prevention conferences until I realised they had little interest in new questions which closed their minds to new answers. Rather than issue proclamations I quietly faded out of that scene and wrote a novel weaving the technical debate into a thriller aimed at the general public.

TRRI was pleasantly surprised to find the challenging debate woven intoThe Reaper’s Rainbow was precisely what some of the more forward thinking influencers in the profession wanted to hear. They accepted the ‘champion of the people’ mantle some people like to place on my shoulders and I was invited to contribute a chapter as long as I was provocative; a sure bait for a philosopher like me. The editors knew I always take positive action rather than offer censure so I was a safe option, even if they could know what line I would take.

I focused on ‘evidence-based research’ as it’s the basis of medical decisions and processes. There are a huge number of medical articles which have been peer-reviewed to ensure the evidence they contain is scientifically valid. I chose to ask if the evidence was evidence of success or failure? I cited some of the peer-reviewed articles and asked if a family who had just lost a loved one to a hospital-acquired infection would feel the death represented success or failure? How would an aggressive lawyer acting for that family in court want the jury to view the evidence.

The person died; it’s evidence of failure.

How is that helpful? It induces people to ask how people like me prevent infections. It’s very simple when you have a valid reason to try. When readers of the textbook come to the realisation that NOT changing is a greater threat to them than encompassing new ideas, we’ll have more prevention with fewer infections; and we’ll use fewer antibiotics so those we have will last longer.

You can find The Reaper’s Rainbow by clicking here.

It’s a thriller with a tough theme and happy ending. Have fun and let me have your thoughts.