The Department of Health has published a five-year strategy to counter antimicrobial resistance (AMR) through monitoring, treatment and education, both nationally and internationally.
Steps taken include tighter controls to ensure appropriate prescribing of antibiotics and the setting up of a new Health Protection Research Unit.
In addition, work is ongoing to add AMR to the Government’s long-term national security risk register.
The strategy follows the recommendations made in March by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, who warned that AMR posed a “catastrophic threat” to healthcare in the future.
The evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains of pathogenic bacteria, caused in part by overuse of standard antibiotics, threatens to increase the prevalence of hospital-acquired infections following operations.
The new DH publication highlights the importance of healthcare providers working with the pharmaceutical, food, farming and retail sectors, as well as academic researchers, to address the threat.
Public Health Minister Anna Soubry (pictured) said: “The Chief Medical Officer’s stark warning showed that bacteria are adapting fast and if we don’t take action, we could face serious problems in years to come.
“This is really a problem that society has to take on together, through better education, treatment and monitoring of bacteria. Whether you’re a patient, a doctor or a vet, we all have a role to play in prescribing and using antibiotics responsibly.”
The strategy includes measures to:
• Prevent and manage infections in people and animals better through improved hygiene and monitoring of bacteria in medical and community settings.
• Improve education and training on the prescribing of antibiotics to ensure patients receive the right antibiotics at the right times.
• Collect data on AMR to enable earlier intervention.
• Set up a new National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit to focus on AMR, with £4m funding.
• Encourage the development of new antibiotics and rapid diagnostics by working with industry.
Steve Bates, CEO of the BioIndustry Association (BIA), commented: “The vibrant UK bioscience base is eager to play its part in addressing this global challenge. UK biotech companies, such as Discuva and Cantab Anti-infectives for example, are using Biomedical Catalyst funding to discover and develop new antimicrobial classes for Gram-negative bacteria. At the same time, Redx Pharma has attracted significant backing from the UK Government’s Regional Growth Fund to support the creation of its Anti-infectives R&D subsidiary.
“However, getting the incentives right globally for investment in this is essential. For instance, we need incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs that will only be used infrequently and sparingly rather than paid for every pill used. I hope this strategy inspires discussion of new concepts around this agenda to enable commercial companies to fully engage on this vital challenge for society.”