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  1. ITV Report

Ignoring antibiotics misuse could lead to 'end of modern medicine', warns Dame Sally Davies

Failing to tackle the misuse of antibiotics could lead to the end of modern medicine, the chief medical officer for England has warned.

Dame Sally Davies said the size of the problem was comparable to climate change and told ITV News that without better regulation of the current stock of antibiotics, and the development of new ones, the situation could spiral out of control.

"At its worst we will lose modern medicine and that, if we don't get new antibiotics, will happen," she said.

"Imagine a world without antibiotics, where people die from a scratch."

Antibiotics prevent infection and their use underpins all manner of medical treatment - cancer treatments and transplant operations are dependent on antibiotic use.

But the misuse of antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant forms of disease, that in turn means usually treatable diseases can become fatal.

At present about 700,000 people die each year from antimicrobial resistance, often referred to as AMR.

"Modern medicine relies on effective anti-infectives. Antimicrobial resistance will stop that," Dame Sally said.

ITV News has travelled across the world to report on the growing global threat form the spread of deadly drug-resistant 'super bugs':

Dame Sally said that part of the problem is the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture where they are often used as a shortcut for keeping animals healthy.

There has also been a dearth of research into new antibiotics.

"We do not have new antibiotics, new anti-malarials," she said.

"There is a wonderful new anti-TB drug [that fights tuberculosis], but resistance will develop to that. So this is a growing problem."

But she was hopeful that new antibiotics could be developed: "I'm a 'glass-half-full' sort of person. I believe we will get new antibiotics.

"But we need to put a lot more money into the research and into the pulling through of new antibiotics - they're very expensive to make."

She also called for better regulation of antibiotic use, and a programme of education for those prescribing or using them.