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11.03.13

‘Catastrophic’ antimicrobial threat – Chief Medical Officer

Antimicrobial resistance poses a “catastrophic threat”, the Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies has warned in the second volume of her annual report.

The weakening effectiveness of antibiotics in tackling infections should be taken as seriously as MRSA and placed onto the national risk register, she urges.

Since the 1980s, few new antibiotics have been developed, while a new infectious disease has been discovered nearly every year.

The report calls for better hygiene measures to prevent infections, fewer prescriptions only when really needed, better surveillance to monitor the situation and more work with pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics.

New infection control measures should also apply to care in home and community settings, and further promotion of vaccination and immunisation will be necessary.

Professor 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.”

The Department of Health will soon publish the UK’s Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy, in response to this challenge.

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