A top scientist has called for a global effort to stop the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, warning that if we don’t act now 10 million people could die a year from drug-resistant diseases.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, has warned that without swift global action we could see the “end of modern medicine” as our antibiotics become useless against drug-resistant strains of bacteria.
Currently, in America alone, at least 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result, according to the Center for Disease Control. Globally this number is around 700,000. Prof Davies, speaking ahead of a global meeting of health chiefs to reveal a new project mapping the spread of death and disease from drug-resistant superbugs, warned that over the next 30 years this could increase to over 10 million, as more bacteria become resistant to antibiotics.
“We really are facing, if we don’t take action now, a dreadful post-antibiotic apocalypse,” Davies told the conference in Berlin. “I don’t want to say to my children that I didn’t do my best to protect them and their children.”
She will launch a campaign in the UK later this month calling on patients not to demand antibiotics from their doctors. She said that patients think that doctors are being “mean” when they refuse to prescribe antibiotics, when really they are attempting to prescribe less in part of a global effort to prevent new strains of drug-resistant bacteria evolving.
“Research has found that often [the public] think doctors are trying to save money,” she said at the conference, the Telegraph reported. “When in fact they are trying to save the drugs, so that they work when they are actually needed.”
Dame Sally Davies is chief medical officer, effectively the highest-ranking doctor in the UK. Flickr/NHS Confederation.
Dame Davies warned that the drugs are often given to pushy patients for colds and viruses, even though antibiotics do not help to cure viruses.
Drug-resistant superbugs are becoming a bigger problem, and she urged the world to take action, saying thus far it had been “far too slow” to act.
“This antimicrobial resistance is with us now, killing people,” Davies said. “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.”