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Antibiotic Resistance Could Kill Modern Medicine, UK Health Chief Warns

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A leading world health expert has warned of an "antibiotic apocalypse" if the growing threat of drug-resistant superbugs is not tackled urgently.

Professor Dame Sally Davies — who is England's chief medical officer — fears also that if antibiotics lose their effectiveness, it could spell "the end of modern medicine."

Without the drugs used to fight infections, common medical interventions such as cesarean sections, cancer treatments and hip replacements would become incredibly risky while transplant medicine would be a thing of the past, she insisted.

Urging world leaders to follow Britain's lead to prevent the spread of such superbugs, the professor said:

"We really are facing — if we don't take action now — 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."

Health experts have previously said resistance to antimicrobial drugs could pose a bigger threat to mankind than cancer. It is estimated that around 700,000 people around the world die each year due to drug-resistant infections including tuberculosis, HIV and malaria.    

If no action is taken, it has been estimated that this figure may potentially rise to 10 million deaths annually by the year 2050.

In recent years, Britain has led a drive to raise global awareness of the threat posed to modern medicine by antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Now the UK government and the Wellcome Trust are urging health officials from around the world to respond to the crisis.

Professor Davies warned that if the global community did not act, progress in Britain could be undermined.

"We use more [antibiotics] than I would like and we estimate that about one in three or one in four prescriptions in primary care are probably not needed. But other countries use vastly more antibiotics in the community and they need to start doing as we are, which is reducing dosage. Our latest date shows we have reduced human consumption by 4.3 percent in 2014-2015 from the year before," she said.

"This AMR is with us now, killing people. This is a serious issue that is with us now, causing deaths. If it was anything else, people would be up in arms about it. But because it is hidden they just let it pass," Professor Davies said.

Warning things will only get worse, the professor said: "We need some real work on the ground to make a difference or we risk the end of modern medicine."

In September, the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that antibiotics were running out after a report found a "serious lack" of new drugs in the development pipeline.

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