Antimicrobial resistance poses ‘catastrophic threat’, says Chief Medical Officer

Antibiotic Action supports comments made by England’s  Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies in the second volume of her annual report published today.   She issues stark warnings about the catastrophe we face if we do not immeidately address the threat of antimicrobial resistance.

The CMO said we could routinely see deaths from minor surgery within 20 years if new antibiotics are not discovered – highlighting the immediate and imminement threats that  antimicrobial resistance poses. She has called for politicians to act now, and for global action to be taken.

Her report mirrors calls made by Antibiotic Action– a UK led global initiative funded by BSAC – insisting the “discovery void” is addressed – few new antibiotics have been developed in the past two decades despite a new infectious disease being discovered every year for the past 30 years.  The report highlights how our amoury of antibiotics is nearly empty at a time when diseases are evolving and becoming more resistance to existing drugs.  In speaking of her report Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

“Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat. If we don’t act now, any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can’t be treated by antibiotics. And routine operations like hip replacements or organ transplants could be deadly because of the risk of infection.

“That’s why governments and organisations across the world, including the World Health Organization and G8, need to take this seriously.

“This is not just about government action. We need to encourage more innovation in the development of antibiotics – over the past two decades there has been a discovery void around antibiotics, meaning diseases have evolved faster than the drugs to treat them.

“In some areas, like cutting rates of drug resistant MRSA, the NHS is already making good progress so it’s important that we use that knowledge across the system and I hope my recommendations will prompt people to do that.”

Professor Laura Piddock, Director of Antibiotic Action said “We are pleased that the issue is now so high on the government and Departmental agenda, and are pleased to report that as an outcome of Antibiotic Action Jamie Reed, Shadow Minister for Health has agreed to Chair an All Party Parlimanentary Group on Antibiotics.  This is an important move which will place the issue of antibiotic resistance and the need for new antibiotic firmly on the political agenda.”  She continued by saying “Antibiotic Action is working hard to educate all on the need for new antibiotics, and is actively collaborating with likewise initiatives globally – in particular ReAct in Europe and Infectious Diseases Society of America and we look forward to working with the Department of Health to deliver the recommendations of the CMO’s report and the forthcoming DH strategy on anitmicrobial resistance“.

The Department of Health will soon publish the UK Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy setting out how it will meet the challenge that the Chief Medical Officer has outlined, and BSAC is in active discussion with the Department of Health on how it can assist in delivering the five-year strategy and action plan which will:

  • Champion the responsible use of antibiotics – by ensuring NHS staff have the skills, knowledge and training to prescribe and administer antibiotics appropriately.  Part of this will include reviewing and updating the curricula for medical undergraduates;
  • Strengthen surveillance – by improving the recording of data on the numbers of antibiotics prescribed and trends in antibiotic resistance, this information can used by clinicians to change patterns of prescribing.  This will help reduce the level of resistance and help ensure patients respond to treatments; and
  • Encourage the development of new diagnostics, therapeutics and antibiotics, for example by continuing to support the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) and other initiatives that encourage scientific research.

The Society is well placed to support this vital body of work, having several longstanding initiatives in place to survey antibiotic resistance and antimicrobial usage.

Notes:  For further information on the CMO report and its recommendations click here.

The full report can be downloaded here