The discovery of antibiotics transformed our world by making previously incurable illnesses treatable and allowing medical procedures like operations and chemotherapy to be performed safely. Millions of lives have been saved and our well-being radically improved. But our time with these drugs is running out. Antibiotics have been used so extensively many are losing their ability to defeat bacteria. Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are already responsible for 700,000 deaths a year. Without urgent action, this number is projected to increase exponentially. While new drugs have been made available, the pace of development has not kept up with the pace of resistance.

Antibiotic resistance crisis

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to medicines and develop the ability to defeat drugs. While antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, the overuse and misuse of antibiotics has accelerated the process.

Humans use an estimated 34.8 billion antibiotic doses each year, with global consumption increasing 65% between 2000 and 2015. In the United Kingdom, 1 in 5 antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily. In the United States, this number rises to 1 in 3. Meanwhile, 17% of the substandard or falsified medicines reported to the World Health Organization are antibiotics, which has further contributed to drug resistance.

Drug-resistant bacteria can infect anyone, of any age in any country. They lead to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and more preventable deaths. This is why antibiotic resistance has been identified by the WHO as one of the biggest threats to global health.