Antimicrobials, particularly antibiotics, have saved millions of lives since they were first discovered. Our generation, and that of our parents, has benefited enormously from these important medicines. But no new classes of antibiotic have been discovered since the 1980s. This, together with the increased and inappropriate use of the drugs we already have, means we are heading rapidly towards a world in which our antibiotics no longer work. We need to act, and act now, to make sure that our children and future generations continue to benefit from these life-saving medicines.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) poses a major threat to everyday life and modern-day medicine where lives could be lost as a result of antibiotics not working as they should. In the United Kingdom, rising AMR will cause people to suffer longer infectious illnesses as they become more difficult to treat, the number of human deaths and suffering attributable to infectious disease will increase as will the socio-economic costs associated with treating ill health in humans.
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. When infections can no longer be treated by first-line antibiotics, more expensive alternatives 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[i]
This video by Health Education England provides a short overview of AMR for healthcare professionals.
Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance
All health and care staff, as well as the public, have a very important role in preserving the power of antibiotics and in controlling and preventing the spread of infections. Amongst the approaches to reduce this threat includes adequate infection prevention and control practices, good antimicrobial stewardship and the use of diagnostics.
GPs are the first point of contact for most patients seeking medical help. The majority of antibiotics prescribed in England in 2019 were done so in general practice (74%).
The UK’s 2019–2024 national action plan to tackle AMR includes targets to:
- halve healthcare associated Gram-negative blood stream infections;
- reduce the number of specific drug-resistant infections in people by 10% by 2025;
- reduce UK antimicrobial use in humans by 15% by 2024 and;
- be able to report on the percentage of prescriptions supported by a diagnostic test or decision support tool by 2024.
This video supports clinical staff in primary care to make informed decisions regarding the prescription, dispensing and use of antibiotics.
The public, students and educators, farmers, the veterinary and medical communities and professional organisations are invited to become Antibiotic Guardians. Choose one simple pledge about how you’ll make better use of antibiotics and help save these vital medicines from becoming obsolete.