UK launches antimicrobial resistance action plan
Around the world people have become more reliant on antibiotics. But with increasing numbers of infections becoming resistant to antibiotics, this poses a serious challenge to public health.
As the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, released the UK government’s five- year plan to combat antibiotic resistance last week, we asked four IBMS members who specialise in microbiology to comment.
I see resistant bacteria first-hand
“Antimicrobials have revolutionised medical treatment and we are at risk of a pre-antimicrobial era due to the ever-evolving nature of microorganisms.” Says Stephanie Worral, Biomedical Scientist at the National Infection Service.
“This will have dire consequences for a number of infection-related diseases including common community infections and hospital infections.
An awareness that antimicrobials do not cure every illness cannot be expressed enough; with an increase in awareness, patients will be inclined to listen to their doctors and remove the pressure of prescribing these drugs.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) listed priority organisms requiring drug development in 2017. This list depicts the microorganisms most troublesome for resistance and therefore treatment in patients infected by these organisms.
It is promising to hear that the government is seeking an alternative to encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop these drugs. We have a problem with resistance for a few reasons and one of those reasons is that pharmaceutical companies are no longer developing these drugs due to a lack of reward for their development.
As a biomedical scientist working in microbiology, I see resistant bacteria first-hand. I have come across patients who cannot be treated for their infection as there is no antimicrobial effective against the strain, which is a devastating outcome for the patient. Laboratories across the UK have improved and continue to develop early recognition of these resistant organisms.
I believe antimicrobial resistance can be tackled with an increase in public awareness, drug development, early recognition, surveillance and an improvement on the way drugs are used in the medical field and food industry. “
My family member was offering out antibiotics
Jodie Earp is a Specialist Biomedical Scientist in Clinical Microbiology at Worcester Royal Hospital. She feels that there is much work to be done to combat the increase in the use of antibiotics by GPs and how the public use them.
“I am currently working in the section of Microbiology that is responsible for organism identification and susceptibility, so I have first-hand experience with seeing emerging resistance.
In a short space of time, I have noticed an increased requirement for resistance surveillance within the hospital and our microbiology consultants have a strong handle on antibiotic stewardship - although this may not reflect how the local GP community are prescribing.
I had the misfortune to discover one of my family members was offering out antibiotics she had bought over the counter very cheaply from a holiday in Spain. She was letting the family know she regularly buys them in bulk from holiday so that when her family are feeling “ill” they take a couple until they feel better. Needless to say, I was mortified to learn this!
I don’t think people are aware of the risks they are putting themselves under or for people in the future.
I am glad that this topic of the required control and advancement of antimicrobial susceptibility may finally start to make more headlines.”
Overuse and misuse is contributing to the problem
“I think the majority of microbiologists working in the area of AMR are aware of the statistic that by 2050, 10 million people are predicted to die from AMR infections globally,” said Tina Joshi, lecturer at Plymouth University and leader of the UK team competing for the Longitude Prize.
“It is perhaps easy to dismiss this statistic as an exaggeration; however, when one considers epidemiology and transmission of multi-drug resistant infections, the ease with which antibiotics can be purchased over the counter in certain countries and their use in agriculture globally then this does not sound far-fetched.
It is even more worrying that the UK in particular prescribed a total of 27 million antibiotics when only 13 million were needed in 2013 and more recently, a quarter of antibiotics are still overprescribed.
This overuse and misuse is contributing to the problem as well as a lack of engagement by industry and global governments amongst others. Antibiotics underpin all of modern medicine- so what will people do when their infections cannot be treated? The answer to this is complex, requires a One Health approach and is one of the biggest problems that humanity is facing.”
Antibiotic resistance is a global problem
Debra Padgett works as the Infection Services Operational Manager at Cumbria Infirmary, specialising in microbiology and virology. She is also an IBMS Council member, representing the North East of England.
“We welcome the Health Secretary’s statement on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and his appreciation of the current issues with drug-resistant bacteria and viruses.
This issue must be tackled from a global perspective with all countries needing national action plans on AMR. Greater innovation and investment are required in research and development of new antimicrobial medicines, vaccines, and diagnostic tools.
Whilst there are some new antibiotics in development, none of them are expected to be effective against the most dangerous forms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Given the ease and frequency with which people now travel, antibiotic resistance is a global problem, requiring efforts from all nations and many sectors.
When infections can no longer be treated by first-line antibiotics, more expensive medicines must be used. A longer duration of illness and treatment, often in hospitals, increases health care costs as well as the economic burden on families and societies.
Antibiotic resistance is putting the achievements of modern medicine at risk. Organ transplantations, chemotherapy and surgeries such as caesarean sections become much more dangerous without effective antibiotics for the prevention and treatment of infections.”