If an antibiotic resistant blood infection managed to spread widely in the UK, thousands of people would die, according to a document released by the Cabinet Office.
The National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies says there will be a “marked increase” in the number of infections complicated by antimicrobial resistance over the next two decades, and a particularly bad infection would be likely to affect around 200,000 people, killing just under half of them.
“If a widespread outbreak were to occur, we could expect around 200,000 people to be affected by bacterial blood infection that could not be treated effectively with existing drugs, and around 80,000 of these people might die,” the report says.
And it is not just infections of the blood that are a concern – many other antibiotic resistant infections could have a similar effect. The problem has been described as a “ticking time bomb” by Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer.
The danger spreads to medical care
Antibiotic resistance poses a serious threat to modern medicine, since antibiotics are an essential part of many types of surgery and treatment including bowel surgery, some cancer treatments and organ transplants.
“Without effective antibiotics, even minor surgery and routine operations could become high-risk procedures, leading to increased duration of illness and ultimately mortality,” the report says.