Antibiotic resistance is recognised as a global risk by the Prime Minister

MRSA Action UK welcomes the news that the Prime Minister has listened to the Chief Medical Officer in her warning of last March, in respect to the significant risks of antibiotic resistance. He goes further to state that he believes that Great Britain should lead this fight against one of the most significant threats to human health we face today and in the future.

However sound bites and rhetoric is one thing, taking the necessary and appropriate action is another. This is not the first time we have heard that action needs to be taken on antimicrobial resistance, and Professor Dame Sally Davies has now put this subject on the National Risk Register which means the Government has to take this subject very seriously and to raise it at the governmental meetings such as the G7.

When the Prime Minister speaks about a global response this has to include not only governments, it must include global healthcare systems and the pharmaceutical industry. Tackling antimicrobial resistance cannot be dealt with by individual countries, the pharmaceutical industry or healthcare systems. Resistant bacteria can travel around the world in days with our modern transport systems and increasing healthcare tourism. There must be tighter regulation on the use of antibiotics that is uniform across the world, not as it is in some countries where you can purchase antibiotics over the counter, and where counterfeit antibiotics which are sold in dilution, contribute to the problem.

Antibiotics must be tightly regulated in veterinarian practice, farming and agriculture which can account for 50% of all antibiotics used. Every antibiotic used in this sector can cause antibiotic resistance to be transferred to humans.

If the Prime Minister is serious about the United Kingdom leading the way in tackling antibiotic resistance then he should look no further than the global response in the 1960’s to smallpox when the world united in eradicating this terrifying disease. This is the type of response that is needed now to prevent human kind from losing the efficacy of antibiotics.

In 1945 Sir Alexander Fleming warned us that the overuse of these magic bullets could cause us to lose their use as the bacteria build up resistance. In 14 years’ time will be celebrating the centenary of Sir Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, on the other hand we could be mourning their demise.

We welcome an independent review led by Jim O'Neill, the former chief economist at Goldman Sachs, to identify why new drugs have failed to emerge on the international market. However we know the answer is simple, there is no money in developing new antimicrobials. What is needed is for every Government across the world to subscribe to an international fund for the pharmaceutical industry to collaborate and work in partnership to develop these new antimicrobial solutions, including better diagnostics. Identifying particularly difficult to treat gram negative bacteria is important, and needs the right treatment given quickly, therefore diagnosing the bacteria that is causing the infection is vital. The benefit of a collaborative approach would be that costs would be shared by all for the benefit of everyone.

Prevention is always better than cure, and attention to hand hygiene, principally healthcare workers, is essential to stop the spread of infection in healthcare facilities, but patients also need to be mindful of this.  Any environment where we receive healthcare, is more likely to present the chance of coming into contact with antimicrobial resistant organisms, as this is where the sick are treated and antibiotics are prescribed. It is one of the simpler things we can all do to help stop the spread of these microbes. GPs need guidance on prescribing, and help with diagnostics will help reduce the need for broad spectrum antibiotics. Rapid testing can help with decisions on whether antibiotics are indeed needed, and where they are needed, they are targeted with the most effective antibiotic.

Antibiotics appear to be the most undervalued drug in our medical arsenal in terms of investment, but they are the most valuable one we have, if we ignore this problem any longer and bury our heads in the sand, we will leave ourselves not only in the dark ages as the Prime Minister has stated, we will for the first time in human history leave future generations in a worse position than our own.



Derek Butler
MRSA Action UK
Telephone: 07762 741114