Published On: Fri, Oct 13th, 2017

Antibiotic resistance: Huge fears for ‘end of modern medicine’

Antibiotic resistance splitGETTY

A part of the problem is that countries around the world are uncoordinated in tackling the issue

Professor Dame Sally Davies said that if antibiotics lose their effectiveness it will spell “the end of modern medicine”. 

Without the drugs used to fight infections, common medical interventions such as caesarean sections, cancer treatments and hip replacements would become incredibly “risky”, she said. 

And transplant medicine would be a “thing of the past”, she added. 

“We really are facing, if we don’t take action now, a dreadful post-antibiotic apocalypse,” she told the Press Association. 

“I don’t want to say to my children that I didn’t do my best to protect them and their children.” 

TuberculosisGETTY

Drug resistant strains of diseases are responsible for over 00,000 deaths every year

This is a serious issue that is with us now, causing deaths

Dame Sally Davies

Health experts have previously warned that resistance to antimicrobial drugs could cause a bigger threat to mankind than cancer. 

In recent years, the UK has led a drive to raise global awareness of the threat posed to modern medicine by antimicrobial resistance (AMR). 

Around 700,000 people around the world die annually due to drug-resistant infections including tuberculosis (TB), HIV and malaria. 

If no action is taken, it has been estimated that drug-resistant infections will kill 10 million people a year by 2050. 

Dame Sally said that because AMR is “hidden”, people “just let it pass”. 

The comments come as the UK Government and the Wellcome Trust, along with others, have organised a “call to action” meeting for health officials from around the globe. 

At the meeting in Berlin, the Government will also announce a new project which will map the spread of death and disease caused by drug-resistant “superbugs”. 

Dame Sally said: “This AMR is with us now, killing people. 

“This is a serious issue that is with us now, causing deaths. 

The Wellcome TrustGETTY

The Wellcome Trust as organised a ‘call to action’ to raise awareness of the issue

“If it was anything else people would be up in arms about it. But because it is hidden they just let it pass. 

“It does not really have a ‘face’ because most people who die of drug resistant infections, their families just think they died of an uncontrolled infection. 

“It will only get worse unless we take strong action everywhere across the globe. 

“We need some real work on the ground to make a difference or we risk the end of modern medicine.” 

She added: “Not to be able to effectively treat infections means that caesarean sections, hip replacements, modern surgery, is risky. 

“Modern cancer treatment is risky and transplant medicine becomes a thing of the past.” 

Antibiotic resistanceGETTY

The progress made in British medicine could be hugely undermined by antibiotic resistance

Dame Sally warned that if the global community did not act then the progress which had been made in Britain may be “undermined”. 

She added: “We use more than I would like and we estimate that about one in three or one in four prescriptions in primary care are probably not needed. 

“But other countries use vastly more antibiotics in the community and they need to start doing as we are, which is reducing usage. 

“Our latest data shows that we have reduced human consumption by 4.3% in 2014/15 from the year before.” 

In September the World Health Organisation warned that antibiotics are “running out” as a report found a “serious lack” of new drugs in the development pipeline. 

The new project which will map the spread of superbugs is a collaboration between the UK Government, Wellcome Trust, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Oxford and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. 

Foreign and international development minister Alistair Burt said the project will help to “pinpoint problem areas”. 

He said: “The UK is not content to sit back and let this turn into a catastrophe. 

“Part of the problem has been a lack of co-ordination of global efforts and an understanding of where we need to target our future efforts. 

“The partnership we are announcing today – part of more than £160 million in new research funding in the past year – will help us to pinpoint problem areas. 

“This is just one part of our more than £615m investment by the UK Government into tackling drug-resistant infections since we launched our National Strategy at the end of 2013.” 

As well as the global project, the Government has also pledged to highlight the threat at home with a domestic awareness campaign which will alert the public to the issue of AMR, reduce their expectation for antibiotics and supporting change among healthcare professionals. 

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Antibiotic resistance: Huge fears for ‘end of modern medicine’