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Overuse of antibiotics means that a scraped knee could become deadly, WHO warns


Staff wearing protective clothing cull chickens in a Sham Shui Po market after the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus was found in samples collected from the market's poultry stalls in Hong Kong, on June 7, 2008. The United Nations warned on August 29, 2011 that avian flu shows signs of a resurgence, and a mutant strain could be spreading in China and Vietnam.



Before antibiotics were invented, even minor infections could become extremely dangerous. But now scientists say that antibiotics are not as effective as they used to be. In a new conference this week, World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan sounded the alarm on antibiotic resistance, caused by excessive use of the drugs. 

"Things as common as strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill," she said, according to CBS News.

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Scientists have long said that doctors are over-prescribing antibiotics to patients. One study from 2007 found that doctors were prescribing antibiotics to patients for as much as 80 percent of cases of sore throat and other sicknesses, Science Daily reported.

Scientists think antibacterial soap may also be contributing to drug resistance. The Mayo Clinic says that antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than regular soap. In addition, antibacterial soap may "lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product's antimicrobial agents," the Mayo Clinic says.  

Another major contributor to drug-resistance is the meat industry. Earlier this year a study found that excessive use of antibiotics in animal feed caused some farmers to develop drug-resistant skin infections, National Public Radio reported.

Health officials are already seeing the ill-effects of excessive antibiotic usage. A new report from the CDC shows that death rates from drug-resistant stomach infections have doubled in the past decade, CBS reported Friday.

"If current trends continue unabated, the future is easy to predict. Some experts say we are moving back to the pre-antibiotic era. No. This will be a post-antibiotic era," WHO's Chan said told CBS.