Rising antimicrobial resistance a threat to global health

19 November 2020 | Muriel Cozier

‘It’s worrying that more infections are becoming resistant to these life-saving medicines…’

This week, 18-24 November, is World Antimicrobial Awareness Week. A global action plan to tackle the growing problem of resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines was endorsed at the Sixty-eighth World Health Assembly held during May 2015. The theme for 2020 is: Antimicrobials: handle with care.

The UK’s Public Health England, has published its antimicrobial resistance (AMR) report which indicates that there were an estimated 65 162 antimicrobial resistance infections diagnosed in 2019, up from 61 946 in 2018 across England.

E.coli remains the most common bloodstream infection, rising 14% from 68.3 cases per 100 000 population in 2015 to 77.5 in 2019. Across the board antibiotic-resistant blood stream infections have increased from13 671 in 2015 to more than 18 000 in this year’s report.

However, the report does indicate that consumption of antibiotics continues to fall. During 2019 use fell to 17.9 defined daily doses per 1000 people per day compared with 19.4 in 2015. PHE said that the decrease was driven by surgeries and dentists reducing their prescription of the treatments. But hospitals and other community settings have seen a rise in antibiotic prescriptions as they treat increasing blood stream infections.

Isabel Oliver, director of National Infection Service at PHE said; ‘It’s worrying that more infections are becoming resistant to these life-saving medicines. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them can have grave consequences for you and your family’s health, now and in the future.’

Increasing antimicrobial resistance around the world is of growing concern. As well as human consumption, the overuse of antibiotics in livestock and agriculture is also cited as a problem along with poor access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, World Organisation for Animal Health and the World Health Organisation are calling on all sectors of society to ‘rally around a bold unified agenda to defeat this global health development threat.’

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