Key Lecture on Antibiotic Resistance by Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England

Posted on Tuesday 8th April 2014

Dame Sally Davies was guest of honour at the University on the 25th March when she presented the Institute of Microbiology and Infection’s 'Harry Smith Memorial Lecture'.

Dame Sally has been quoted as saying that antibiotic resistance is “as big a threat to human health as climate change” and started her talk with a quote from a 2013 Lancet article:  “We are at the dawn of a postantibiotic era… with almost all disease causing bacteria resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat them”

This set the tone for a strong talk with some hard hitting information that antibiotic resistance could set medicine back a century.   The facts she delivered reinforced the message being promoted by Professor Laura Piddock, who hosted Dame Sally, that antibiotic resistance is here and new drugs are urgently needed. 

Dame Sally said “There have been no new class of antibiotics discovered since 1987 and 7% of all deaths in the UK are caused by infectious disease. 35 million courses of antibiotics are prescribed by GPs each year -  just in England, and 50% of antibiotics worldwide are sold without prescription". 

Without antibiotics, treatments from minor surgery to transplants could become impossible and healthcare costs will spiral as doctors are forced to use second-choice antibiotics and afflicted patients remain in hospitals longer. Infection mortality rates could return to those of the early twentieth century in developed countries.

Dame Sally has led the way in several areas including establishing the Athena-Swann initiative for gender equality and the NIHR. Most recently she has been widely applauded for her global leadership and vocal advocacy on the need to address the crisis of antibiotic resistance and lack of new treatments. She was the ideal person to present at this annual lecture.

The Harry Smith memorial lecture honours Professor Harry Smith, who was one of the UK’s most distinguished microbiologists and made the UoB an internationally renowned centre for research into how bacteria infect their host. 

Dame Sally Davies with Laura Piddock and Ian Henderson
L-R: Professor Ian Henderson, Dame Sally Davies
and Professor Laura Piddock