Britain’s new superbug tsar tells of her fear that children will grow up in a ‘post-antibiotic apocalypse’ unless urgent global action is taken to develop new medicine
- Professor Dame Sally Davies spoke of a ‘return to the dark ages’ of medicine
- She said that Britain is sleepwalking into a superbug crisis with no viable drugs
- Routine operations will become life-threatening without antibiotics, she warned
Britain is sleepwalking into a ‘post-antibiotic apocalypse’ which would see grave setbacks in our ability to fight disease, the new superbug tsar has warned.
Professor Dame Sally Davies used her appointment as the UK’s special envoy on antimicrobial resistance to make an emotional plea for leaders to sit up and tackle the looming drug crisis.
She painted a frightening picture of a ‘return to the dark ages’ of healthcare if we continue to gobble up existing antibiotics without finding replacements.
Professor Dame Sally Davies used her appointment as the UK’s special envoy on antimicrobial resistance to make an emotional plea for leaders to sit up and tackle the looming drug crisis
Lots of current antibiotics are becoming ineffective as bacteria and viruses adapt to resist their extinguishing power (stock image)
‘We are using antibiotics up and and we will have an empty drugs cabinet if we do not do more to tackle the problem,’ she told the Sunday Express.
‘This has been creeping up on us and people have not been paying attention.’
Dame Sally, who leaves her post as Chief Medical Officer, said that the risk of death during routine surgery would skyrocket if bacteria and viruses resist the extinguishing effect of current drugs.
She said: ‘If we don’t find new antibiotics to replace those which are failing, procedures such as cesarean sections, hip replacements and cancer treatments will become potentially life threatening and transplant operations will be a thing of the past. Modern medicine will be lost.
Dame Sally, who leaves her post as Chief Medical Officer, said that the risk of death during routine surgery would skyrocket if bacteria and viruses resist the extinguishing effect of current drugs
The most dangerous superbugs
The World Health Organisation divides the threat of superbug strains into categories critical, high and medium.
Of the bacteria needing ‘critical’ research and development are…
- Acinetobacter baumannii: This is resistant to carbapenems antibiotics and cause infections largely in hospitals such as pneumonia and blood infections.
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa: Also resistent to carbapenems. Causes skin rashes, ear infections, pneumonia and severe blood infections.
- Enterobacteriaceae: Resistant to carbapenems and cephalosporins. Bacteria which festers in the gut and causes salmonella and E.coli.
In an emotionally-charged rallying cry to bump tackling the threat of superbugs up the agenda, Dame Sally spoke of her personal worries of the crisis spilling across future generations.
She said: ‘I lose sleep. If we don’t take action now we really are facing a dreadful post-antibiotic apocalypse.
‘I don’t want to say to my children that I didn’t do my best to protect them and their children.’
Last April, a UN report said that at least 700,000 people die each year globally due to drug-resistant diseases, including 230,000 people who die from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.
Echoing Dame Sally’s warning, World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: ‘We are at a critical point in the fight to protect some of our most essential medicines.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that the UK is taking the global lead in tackling the threat of superbugs.
He said: ‘There is no greater threat to global health than drug-resistant infections yet there have been no major new antibiotic drug classes since the 1980s.’
He added: ‘Our NHS is in a unique position to take a global lead in testing new payment models.’