Our overuse and over-reliance on antibiotics has created a catastrophic threat to the population, the government's chief medical officer warned today.
Dame Sally Davies said drug-resistant infections could turn back time to the early nineteenth century when patients risked dying from routine operations.
ITV News' Medical Editor Lawrence McGinty reports:
Dr Nick Brown, consultant microbiologist at Addenbrooke's Hospital, has warned that doctors need to "manage the expectations" of patients to limit the prescription of antibiotics to necessary cases.
He said that the use of antibiotics "underpins all of medicine" and that some degree of resistance is inevitable, but that the rate could be slowed down.
I do not think I can recall a chief medical officer using language like this, phrases like 'catastrophic threat' and 'ticking time bomb' - you expect to see those in newspaper headlines, not coming from the mouth of the chief medical officer.
The fact that she now wants resistance to be put on the national risk register is an indication of how strongly she feels about it.
The importance of that is that it would encourage and allow the Government to raise it internationally because this is not really a problem that can be tackled just in Britain.
With international travel the way it is now, you can not do things just in Britain - there has to be a worldwide initiative especially to get new antibiotics or even totally different kinds of drugs coming along the pipeline.
Health risks over the resistance to antibiotics could take us back to the early nineteenth century, the Government's Chief Medical Officer has warned.
She added that infections, which we today see as routine and treatable, could once again become a serious threat.
Speaking to Daybreak, Dame Sally Davies said: "Now is the time to do something about it."
She added that the situation has been getting worse over the last ten years, and that companies are no longer producing, new forms of antibiotics.
Daybreak's Health Editor Dr Hilary said warnings over the UK's antibiotic resistance are a "huge concern."
He said there is a serious "amount of pressure on GPs to prescribe antibiotics for the most straight forward viral infections… pressure from patients."
Dr Hilary added, "GPs need to be tougher", in explaining why people do not need antibiotics to cure a common cold, or sore throat.
Today Dame Sally Davies, the Government's Chief Medical Officer has highlighted her concerns over the "ticking time-bomb" of antibiotic resistance.
Dame Sally Davies, the Government's Chief Medical Officer has described the "catastrophic threat" of the country's antibiotic resistance.
Speaking to Daybreak, members of the public said they felt antibiotics were given out too freely.
One man said: "I think we should hold onto them for the most serious cases."
Dame Sally Davies, the Government's Chief Medical Officer, has warned that routine operations could become deadly if the Government does not encourage more innovation in the development of antibiotics.
Professor Nigel Brown, president of the Society for General Microbiology, said:
Professor Dame Sally Davies rightly flags the issue of antimicrobial resistance to be of national and international concern. Urgent action is required by microbiologists and other scientists to identify and produce new antibiotics, and to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance and its transmission.
Professor Christopher Thomas, professor of molecular genetics at the University of Birmingham, added:
While better surveillance, hygiene and restricted use of antibiotics can slow the spread of resistance we also need new ways to kill resistant bacteria or reduce their carriage of resistance genes.
Novel approaches that might have appeared unrealistic a few years ago need to be explored if they hold a chance of helping us tackle this issue.
Widespread resistance to antibiotics has been described as a "apocalyptic scenario" in a report from the Government's Chief Medical Officer. Dame Sally Davies has called for:
- The development of new drugs
- Better care of the current stock of antibiotics
- Better hygiene measures to prevent infections
- The prescription of fewer antibiotics
- More action to tackle the next generation of healthcare associated infections, including new strains of existing viruses
A report from the Government's Chief Medical Officer has highlighted a "discovery void" in the development of antibiotics since 1987.
It said that pharmaceutical companies need to be incentivised to develop new antibiotics.
– Dame Sally Davies, Government's Chief Medical Officer
We have also been waiting for the next new antibiotic to come along and treat those resistant cases but the pipeline is drying up.
There are no new classes of antibiotics in the pipelines across the world and there are very few in development.
That's because we have not, as a global society, incentivised producing antibiotics. We have market failure and we really need to do something about this.