Antibiotics resistance ‘as big a risk as terrorism’ – medical chief


The danger posed by growing resistance to antibiotics should be ranked along with terrorism on a list of threats to the nation, the government’s chief medical officer for England has said.

Professor Dame Sally Davies described it as a “ticking time bomb”.

She warned that routine operations could become deadly in just 20 years if we lose the ability to fight infection.

Dame Sally urged the government to raise the issue during next month’s G8 Summit in London.

Dame Sally said: “If we don’t take action, then we may all be back in an almost 19th Century environment where infections kill us as a result of routine operations. We won’t be able to do a lot of our cancer treatments or organ transplants.”

She said pharmaceutical companies needed to be encouraged to develop new drugs, because the manufacture of antibiotics was not viewed as profitable.

“We haven’t had a new class of antibiotics since the late 80s and there are very few antibiotics in the pipeline of the big pharmaceutical companies that develop and make drugs,” she said.

Written By: Fergus Walsh
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  1. The CEO of GSK stated that they weren’t researching antibiotics because they weren’t sufficiently profitable… For me (as you might guess from the avatar) this is further evidence that the pharmaceutical industry needs to be nationalised.

  2. Alexander Fleming’s Nobel Lecture 1945 foresees that;
    “The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant. Here is a hypothetical illustration. Mr. X. has a sore throat. He buys some penicillin and gives himself, not enough to kill the streptococci but enough to educate them to resist penicillin. He then infects his wife. Mrs. X gets pneumonia and is treated with penicillin. As the strep-
    tococci are now resistant to penicillin the treatment fails. Mrs. X dies. Who is primarily responsible for Mrs. X’s death? Why Mr. X whose negligent use of penicillin changed the nature of the microbe.
    Moral:If you use penicillin, use enough!”

    Most of us have at one time or another been prescribed a course of antibiotics by our GP. But how many of us heed the instruction to complete the course – to continue taking the tablets or capsules until none remain? Very often, our strict adherence to the prescription fades in line with our symptoms: the prescription may last for, say, seven days, but we’re often feeling much better after just two or three. So why bother continuing to take the antibiotic?

    Good luck to Dame Sally with her prescription for education. Let’s hope G8 finishes the course!

  3. I can remember warnings being given by lecturers at an agricultural college in the 1960s, about the misuse of antibiotics in animal feed leading to resistant strains of dangerous bacteria which attack humans. – But short-term profit, is short term profit!

  4. A schoolteacher of mine laid much of the blame on the way GP visits work. Maybe those outside the UK won’t be familiar with this, but the basic idea is a GP sees you for a few minutes, gets rid of you by prescribing you something, then sees the next patient. It’s all done by appointment. Now, what happens if a virus is causing your problem? The GP will almost certainly be unable to give you anything for that, but you won’t leave until s/he prescribes you some kind of antibiotic – which will probably just help a resistant strain evolve because, while the relevant bacteria may not be making you sick at the time, they may well be there. Maybe if viruses were as easy to treat as bacteria, and doctors reliably told the difference, we’d slow down antibiotic resistance development. Of course, then we’d have to regularly invent new antibiotics AND new antivirals (by which I mean something hypothetical that works as well against viruses as antibiotics do against bacteria, which doesn’t include much that currently exists by the name of “antivirals”).

  5. In reply to #1 by littletrotsky13:

    The CEO of GSK stated that they weren’t researching antibiotics because they weren’t sufficiently profitable… For me (as you might guess from the avatar) this is further evidence that the pharmaceutical industry needs to be nationalised.

    Sounds like an area that a smart business would capitalize on. Volume makes everything profitable enough.

  6. Well no they are not profitable because unlike most medicines you only take limited quantities and for a short period. Now statins, there is a money spinner, flog these around the clock to get peoples cholesterol down and give them lots of prozac too so that if they suffer from side effects and still have high cholesterol levels they won’t care anyway. kerching Kerching!

  7. I was touring a pharmaceutical company some years ago with a group of advanced biology students. We broke into groups and were “herded” into different activities and tours that the company devised.

    In one, we were being shown antibacterial soap and hand wash that the company planned to test and release. I asked a series of very very cutting questions that bothered the lead scientist. I was basically using the lessons evolution teaches to let him know that his product would be very limited in it’s efficacy and that the efficacy would decline cumulatively day after day, month after month….

    After the presentation, he stormed over to me and asked “OKAY PAL, WHO ARE YOU?” I said “huh?”. He was like, you can’t be “just a high school teacher…. he was all “conspiracy”; convinced I was a plant from another company.

    Long story boring, the company sent over a HR person while I ate lunch and they offered me a job! I made outrageous salary and vacation demands and they ended up turning me down. This was 12 years ago and the company has not changed or updated their product.

  8. Eli. I agree that Barbara`s c0mment is unimaginable, on sunday I got a great Lexus LS400 since I been earnin $5849 this last five weeks and in excess of $10k this past-munth. without a question it is the best job I’ve had. I actually started six months/ago and almost immediately startad bringin home over $81.. per/hr. I use this website,……..

  9. The field of medicine seems to be plagued with problems. I didn’t realize that the human body is so mind-bogglingly complex that a Herculean effort is constantly required to keep it healthy and disease-free.

  10. Antibiotics resistance ‘as big a risk as terrorism’

    Bloody Jihadi Bacteria!


    ps: apologies for the islamophobia, and to bacteria of other denominations and none.

  11. “As big a risk as terrorism”???

    Seriously?? I’d say its a damn site worse of a threat than terrorism doncha think??

  12. Jos Gibbons: (Anecdote/semi-rhetorical question warning)

    A schoolteacher of mine laid much of the blame on the way GP visits work…you won’t leave until s/he prescribes you some kind of antibiotic…

    Be interested to know if the emphasis is on the patient demanding antibiotics or GPs insisting you take some. How long ago was this? – I regularly get people bringing their kids to me at 3am, who after being reassured it’s a virus (“He’s been happy and dripping snot for 3 days but since you ran out of Calpol you brought him in ‘just in case’? FFS it’s a cold!” – TFIC), still ask for antibiotics. I am a tight-fisted bastard when it comes to giving them out; Dame Sally is clearly more in the know, but I honestly thought the days of doctors handing them out like sweeties was over.

    As most viral illnesses go away on their own, I don’t think we need to bother inventing antivirals for all occasions. As the CMO says, it’s education and managing expectation (on both sides) that will buy us the time to make new antibiotics.

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