Opinion Former Article

Global Antibiotic Awareness Week: Patients, healthcare practitioners and policy-makers work together to tackle antimicrobial resistance

This week sees the launch of the first “Global Antibiotic Awareness Week” and MRSA Action UK is supporting this campaign and is playing its part in helping to draw attention to this growing threat to modern medicine.

Lord Jim O’Neill, who is leading a global review into the growing issue of antimicrobial resistance, warned in a report last year that a continued rise in resistance by 2050 could potentially lead to 10 million people dying every year and cost the world up to $100 trillion.

The Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Professor Sally Davies, has predicted that unless tackled now, antimicrobial resistance could lead to the end of modern medicine as we know it. It could lead to routine operations and even childbirth becoming increasingly dangerous without the required antibiotics. In the UK, over 25,000 deaths a year are attributed to drug resistant infections.

This week the Healthcare Infection Society have published guidelines describing measures that are clinically effective for preventing transmission of multi-drug-resistant (MDR) Gram-negative bacterial infections in acute and primary healthcare settings. The guidelines include recommendations relating to screening, diagnosis and infection control precautions including hand hygiene, single-room accommodation, and environmental screening and cleaning. There are also recommendations that relate to specific organisms where there are species differences. Antibiotic stewardship is covered in a separate publication.

A representative from the charity MRSA Action UK has been involved in guideline development for multi-drug-resistant (MDR) Gram-negative bacterial infections, which are proving increasingly more difficult to treat and are endemic in Europe and around the world. Increased use of broad-spectrum antimicrobials selects organisms with resistance and, by increasing their numbers, increases their chance of spread.

The guideline development working party, led by medical microbiologists and scientists, infectious disease physicians, infection control practitioners, epidemiologists and patient representatives, have published the guidelines this week. The patient representatives are lay members and have direct experience of the treatment of healthcare-associated infections through personal experience and/or through membership of the Healthcare-associated Infection Service Users Research Forum, patient charities and through involvement in the development of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines.

On November 25, members of MRSA Action UK will join Professor Dame Sally Davies and Andrea Jenkyns MP, Chair of APPG on Patient Safety and a Trustee of the Charity MRSA Action UK, in a launch of an initiative to improve hand hygiene compliance. This is aimed at the wider community and includes the provision of materials that MPs will be encouraged to promote in schools.

Derek Butler, Chair of MRSA Action UK said “Hand Hygiene is the foundation of all good healthcare, everyone involved in caring for patients has a responsibility to clean their hands at the right time, every time.

The consequences of getting it wrong are too great for the patient and ultimately for society. Any avoidable infection is one too many, it may prove impossible to treat if antibiotics are no longer effective.”

“Patient representatives, healthcare providers and policy makers need to work together to tackle antimicrobial resistance – or we will return to the pre-antibiotic era making many of our routine procedures and operations impossible.”

“I whole-heartedly support this collaborative working, as we all have a role to play in using antibiotics wisely and save modern medicine”.


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