According to Dame Sally Davies, England’s top physician, tens of thousands across both continents are suffering from conditions perfectly treatable only a short while back. The threat, she says, is comparable to terrorism.
Davies has pioneered the UK’s foray into antimicrobial resistance (AMR) strategies, and is considered a leading global voice in the matter. Her warning comes in a report by economist Lord Jim O’Neill, who has been commissioned by the government to conduct a survey of the problem and its possible solutions. The product is the result of a two-year study.
According to O’Neill’s findings, resistance to antibiotics is spiraling out of control so quickly that ordinary procedures such as cesarean sections or chemotherapy will place our bodies in grave danger in a matter of three decades. Drug-resistant infections are growing, and by 2050 will pose greater threat than cancer itself, the authors warn.
The reason is antibiotic overuse. Treating the common cold with antibiotics seems to be the equivalent of trying to kill an annoying house fly with a hand grenade. And because ‘what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,’ the immune system develops resistance, and the mild infections grow into so-called ‘superbugs.’
A further danger is antibiotics in animal feed. These in turn can get right back into our food supply. And according to the authors, some 45 percent of UK antibiotics are being given to animals.