Bugs that cannot be killed by antibiotics could wipe out humanity ‘before climate change does’, England’s chief medical officer warned yesterday.
Professor Dame Sally Davies says, “Antibiotics underpin modern medicine – you can’t have gut surgery, replacement hips, all sorts of surgery without risking infection.
‘At least 10 million could die every year if we don’t get on top of this.”
She also warned against importing meat or fish from countries that ‘misuse’ antibiotics in farming.
Some strains of bugs including tuberculosis, MRSA and Clostridium no longer respond to antibiotics that used to be effective against them.
Overusing the drugs – be it for medicine or agriculture – means illnesses can adapt so they stop responding to antibiotics made to cure them. This means a minor infection such as a skin wound can prove fatal.
Dame Sally says, “We humans are doing it to ourselves, but it could kill us before climate change does. It is a very important area and we are under-investing in sorting it out.”
Official data shows that since 2014 some countries have cut the amount of antibiotics they use.
However, the number of drug-resistant bloodstream infections is on the increase at an alarming rate.
New research, published in the Australian Journal of General Practice, has found some doctors frequently prescribe antibiotics for illnesses like ‘strep throat’, without using an extended consultation that may indicate a viral infection rather than a bacterial one.
A leading government health agency and SHPA (Society of Hospital Pharmacists Australia) have added their voices to GP groups in opposing antibiotic ‘down-scheduling’, citing fears about antimicrobial resistance.