We live in an age where antibiotics save lives, on average adding 20 years to life expectancy across the globe. Imagine if we reverted to a world without antibiotics – modern medicine as we know it would be lost.

In the latest from our collection of essays, Professor Dame Sally Davies and Rebecca Sugden consider this scenario and suggest ways in which the problem can be tackled.

"Each year, around 4,000,000 operations are carried out in England and for most of these, antibiotics are key to preventing infections both pre- and post-operatively. One in four births in England is by caesarean section, where antibiotics are used to protect mother and baby. And half of women in the UK will suffer a urinary tract infection at some point in their lives and most of these will need antibiotics to treat the infection.

Most cancer treatments suppress the body’s ability to respond to infections, so antibiotics, antifungals and antivirals help to keep people alive while they receive routine cancer care. Meanwhile, anyone who has had a transplant knows that their life depends on antibiotics to treat and prevent life-threatening infections. So why is antimicrobial resistance now a problem?" 

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