The Health Protection Agency (HPA) welcomes the move by England’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Professor Dame Sally Davies to add antibiotic resistance to the national risk register.
Its addition to the risk register will mean that this issue will be given full attention by politicians here in England as well as the G8 and World Health Organization.
This announcement was made at the launch of the Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer – Infections and the rise of antimicrobial resistance which was published today.
Figures from the HPA’s Antimicrobial Resistance Reference Laboratory show that in 2003 there were three samples which tested positive for antibiotic resistance compared to 800 in 2012.
It is this dramatic rise in the numbers of cases that warrants active intervention not just from Government but also from healthcare institutions, the pharmaceutical industry, patients and the general public to address this very serious problem.
The growth in resistance is not new and has been developing over a period of years both in Europe and elsewhere. As well as more established strains of resistance new ones have emerged from South East Asia and have spread, due to international travel, all over the world. The HPA continues to work with colleagues from around the world advising on infection control and sharing data on strains.
Today, patients who test positive for an antibiotic resistant infection can still be treated with other antibiotics. However there is a very real concern that this may not be the case in the future. The rise in resistance now means that doctors have to use ‘older’ antibiotics where their application in modern medical care is not so well understood.
Professor Anthony Kessel, Director of Public Health Strategy and Medical Director at the HPA, said: “We are very pleased that the CMO is giving the issue of antibiotic resistance her full attention. This is not a clinical issue but a societal one and we must change our attitude towards antibiotics. They certainly have their place for treating bacterial infections but too often are given for viral illness which contributes towards the problems we are facing today. This will require more awareness raising and education both for clinicians and the public on how they use the antibiotics that we have.
“The HPA has been working very hard on this issue for some time and has committed great resource to devising strategies and advice on treatment, infection control and patient management. We cannot eliminate this problem but we can put in successful strategies to manage it and minimise its impact and keep our antibiotics safe for the future.”