'The next epidemic': B.C. woman warns of antibiotic resistance after husband dies from superbug
TORONTO -- A B.C. woman is warning others about the threat of antibiotic resistance after her husband contracted a deadly superbug from an infection following cancer surgery.
George Gould contracted a drug-resistant superbug at the Vancouver General Hospital in 2016. He had undergone two surgeries to treat his Stage 4 colorectal cancer. He was supposed to resume chemotherapy, but Wendy says the infection had left him too weak to continue treatment.
"It was devastating and so unnecessary. He suffered unbelievably because of this infection," said Wendy Gould in an interview with CTV News.
Wendy said George was admitted to hospital 22 times for intravenous antibiotics that his body rejected during the last 18 months of his life, triggering violent nausea and frightening hallucinations each time. George died in an isolation unit in January, 2018.
Antimicrobial resistance occurs when micro-organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, evolve to resist the drugs that would otherwise kill them. Superbugs currently kill 5,400 Canadians annually, rivalling the number of Alzheimer deaths.
"The bacteria are becoming resistant because we've used a lot of antibiotics both in agriculture and in people," said McMaster University Biomedical Sciences Professor Lori Burrows in an interview with CTV News Channel. "These are the only class of drugs that the more you use it the less effective it is."
Before he died, the hospital informed George in a letter that a contaminated endoscope "may be connected" to him contracting a superbug.
Wendy has since filed a lawsuit against the hospital and the local health board, arguing that Canada isn't taking the global public health threat seriously.
"It just preys on you," she said. "It's the next epidemic."
Researchers have revealed that an average of 14 Canadians are killed each day by superbugs, but that daily death toll is expected to more than double by 2050.
New data released Tuesday from an expert panel warns drug resistant bacteria could kill as many as 400,000 Canadians and cost the economy about $400 billion over the next 30 years.
The report, commissioned by the Public Health Agency of Canada, says these drug resistant bacteria will decrease quality of life, strain Canada’s health care system and reduce its workforce.
Experts warn that the crisis is fast approaching and may be the most dangerous threat the world is currently facing.
"This is something that's going to hit our shores as a tsunami, moving forward much sooner than climate change is," said Dr. John Conly, co-author of the report, in an interview with CTV Power Play Host Don Martin.
Canada has been slow to react to the growing threat of superbugs, but the federal government is expected to release an action plan to help combat the crisis next year. Researchers hope the plan will include innovative new treatments and better monitoring to track these deadly pathogens.
While the overall risk can't entirely be eliminated, there are some steps Canadians can take to lessen their risk of getting this kind of infection.
The Public Health Agency of Canada suggests one of the best ways to protect against antibiotic resistance is to reduce the risk of getting sick in the first place, principally by maintaining proper hygiene.
-- With files from The Canadian Press