Health officials around the world agree that one of the best steps to reducing the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is scaling back on unnecessary overprescribing of these medications. As doctors in many countries work to implement these efforts, a new report out of the United Kingdom shows some progress in the fight against drug-resistant “superbugs,” along with plenty of work to still be done.
The new report
comes from the UK’s Department of Health and Department for Environmental, Food & Rural Affairs, and was prepared by their AMR Strategy High Level Steering Group. It’s their second annual progress report, outlining progress made in 2015 to slow the spread of superbugs in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and detailing their five-year antimicrobial resistance strategy for 2013 to 2018. This report’s release came as the United Nations General Assembly was set to gather for a meeting
to discuss the international problem of drug-resistant bacteria, a common global enemy.
Quite simply, antimicrobial resistance
is the ability of bacteria, viruses, and parasites to develop immunity to the antibiotic, antiviral, and antimalarial drugs humans have created to fight off dangerous infections. As pathogens have adapted over recent decades, they’ve become stronger and are increasingly able to defy medical treatment. Infections that were once easily treatable can today become life threatening, and around the world people are experiencing more illnesses, hospitalizations, medical expenses, and deaths due to these superbugs. In many cases, doctors are now treating patients with infections that are resistant to even last-line antibiotics, drugs typically given as a last resort when nothing else has worked to clear an infection.
If we’ve prescribed ourselves into a corner, the UK’s new report demonstrates local and national efforts taken to tackle this global threat. Their first such report included an ambitious “One Health” strategy to tackle AMR in people, animals, agriculture, and the wider environment, and the new report delves into how they’ve implemented that approach. Ensuring that their regulatory and operational infrastructure is ready to drive real progress, the UK officials have been working closely with the World Health Organization, largely driving the international effort on AMR. “We made considerable progress at a national level putting the building blocks for success in place including better data, guidance and a strengthened framework for antimicrobial stewardship,” say the report’s authors. “However, we were acutely aware that we had yet to see unequivocal evidence that we are making a difference, although, at the end of 2015, early signs suggested that initiatives begun earlier in the year were having good results. The challenge now is to shift focus from the development of national tools and guidance to local delivery.”