Antibiotic Resistance Can Negate the Value of Surgery and Cancer Immunotherapy

The results of a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases necessitate a wake-up call for stakeholders to develop a new approach that can overcome the rapidly-growing threat of antibiotic resistance.

The widespread use of antibiotics has been in the news a lot the past few years, with the emergence of multidrug-resistant pathogens that weaken our fight against infectious disease. Now a new retrospective study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases has concluded that these resistant microbes bear the potential to reduce the value of surgeries and even cancer therapy.

For this international collaborative study, researchers gathered data from published randomized controlled trials in the United States that used prophylactic antibiotics prior to surgical procedures and prior to initiating immunosuppressive chemotherapy in patients with cancer. The team predicted the percentage of prophylactic antibiotic—resistant pathogens that were responsible for infections subsequent to the scheduled procedures.

The analysis found that 38.7% to 50.9% of pathogens that caused surgical site infections and 26.8% of pathogens responsible for infections following chemotherapy were resistant to the routine prophylactic antibiotics. Extrapolating the collected data using a model, the authors predicted that a 30% reduction in the efficacy of these antibiotics would result in and annual increase of 120,000 surgical site infections and infections post chemotherapy. The model also predicted 6300 infection-related deaths per year with the same 30% reduction in prophylactic antibiotic efficacy.

“A lot of common surgical procedures and cancer chemotherapy will be virtually impossible if antibiotic resistance is not tackled urgently,” said senior study author Ramanan Laxminarayan, PhD, director of the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, in Washington.

The authors have urged that their important findings beg the need for new prophylactic recommendations to overcome the growing resistance to these antimicrobials.