New Bug May Render Chemo Useless

“Four in 10 [cancer doctors] said they had seen a rise in patients developing drug-resistant infections in the last year.”

Feb 18, 2020

Newsweek – Cancer doctors fear superbugs which can’t be treated with antibiotics will soon remove chemotherapy as a treatment option for their patients, a survey has revealed. Cancer patients are more vulnerable to infections because the disease and its treatments can stop the immune system from working correctly.

Of the 100 oncologists in the U.K. surveyed between December 20, 2019 and February 3, 2020 by the Longitude Prize—which was established to help tackle antimicrobial resistance—95 percent said they were worried about the effect superbugs could have on their patients.

An estimated one in five cancer patients need antibiotics during their treatment, according to existing research cited by the authors of the report, and cancers including multiple myeloma and acute leukaemia can’t be treated without them.

The survey revealed that 46 percent of doctors believe drug-resistant bugs will make chemotherapy unviable. Some cancer treatments, which the report didn’t name, will be obsolete in five years, 28 percent of the cancer doctors predicted.

A further 39 percent forecast this would happen within the next decade, and 15 percent in two decades.

Daniel Berman, global health director of Nesta Challenges which runs the Longitude Prize, explained to Newsweek that the researchers didn’t ask about specific and individual types of treatment approaches, as “all patient care is individual and multilayered, involving many types of different co-treatments and therapies.

“However, since we know chemotherapy suppresses the immune system, leaving patients vulnerable to infections, we did want to explore this one further,” he said.

Four in 10 (41 percent) said they had seen a rise in patients developing drug-resistant infections in the last year, with 23 percent of their cancer patients developing an infection during treatment on average.

As many as 65,000 cancer patients are at risk of catching a superbug infection after having surgery in the U.K. in this decade, the data suggested. Among the doctors surveyed, 5 percent of their patients who had surgery developed an infection which didn’t respond to antibiotics.

A total of 86 percent of the doctors said the bugs Staphylococcus, E. coli and pseudomona put cancer patients at the most risk … Read more. 


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