Bacterial resistance to antibiotics already leads to 25,000 deaths a year in Europe. We need to develop a diagnostic tool to slow it downby Sally Davies / June 5, 2014 / Leave a comment
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria like staphylococcus aureus could take us back to the 19th Century. © Janice Haney Carr
The soaring number of antibiotic-resistant infections we are now seeing poses such a great threat to society that in 20 years’ time we could be taken back to a 19th-century environment where everyday infections kill. In Europe alone, 25,000 people a year already die from infections that are resistant to our drugs of last resort. We have reached a critical point and must act now on a global scale to slow the situation down.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has developed over the years through incorrect and over-use of antibiotics. They have been used to treat viruses—against which they are ineffective—simply because a doctor does not have the means to identify the source of an infection. Patients do not always complete the full course of antibiotics prescribed. They are also used in animal feed to promote growth. Incorrectly using antibiotics in all these ways means that bacteria are able to develop resistance.
AMR is a global problem. My annual report last year, with contributions from more than 50 experts, drew national and global attention to the problem of AMR. As a result, it was placed on the risk registers of both the Department of Health and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The new UK cross-government strategy was subsequently strengthened to include an action plan. But no country can resolve the issues of AMR alone—this needs global cooperation and mutual sup…