British health chief: Rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs could set medicine back 200 years

The growing ineffectiveness of many antibiotics against infection is being compounded by a “discovery void”, as few new compounds are being developed to take their place. Dame Sally calls for a string of actions to tackle the threat, which is likely to include tighter restrictions on how GPs prescribe antibiotics for their patients.

Declaring that in 20 years’ time even minor surgery may lead to death through untreatable infection, she warns: “This is a growing problem, and if we don’t get it right, we will find ourselves in a health system not dissimilar from the early 19th century.”

Although the problem of antibiotic or antimicrobial resistance has long been recognised, Dame Sally has chosen to give it new prominence, urging that the level of threat it represents to the nation as a whole needs to be sharply re-evaluated. “I knew about antimicrobial resistance as a doctor, but I hadn’t realised how bad it was or how fast it is growing,” she said.