Antibiotic Resistance—where are we now?

On Tuesday 25th March, the Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, presented the annual Harry Smith Memorial lecture. The lecture was hosted and introduced by Prof Laura Piddock, and the event was followed by a dinner for Dame Sally with the VC at Meadowcroft.

Dame Sally started her talk with a quote from a 2013 Lancet article: “We are at the dawn of a post-antibiotic era… with almost all disease causing bacteria resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat them”. This set the tone for a strong talk with some hard hitting information that antibiotic resistance could set medicine back a century. The facts she delivered reinforced the message being promoted by Laura Piddock, that antibiotic resistance is here and new drugs are urgently needed.

Dame Sally said “There have been no new class of antibiotics discovered since 1987 and 7% of all deaths in the UK are caused by infectious disease. 35 million courses of antibiotics are prescribed by GPs each year – just in England, and 50% of antibiotics worldwide are sold without prescription.” Without antibiotics, treatments from minor surgery to transplants could become impossible and healthcare costs will spiral as doctors are forced to use second-choice antibiotics and afflict-ed patients remain in hospitals long-er. Infection mortality rates could return to those of the early twentieth century in developed countries.