For the first time, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is highlighted as a serious long-term challenge in the government’s National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.1
According to the report, around 200 000 people in the UK could be affected by a bacterial blood infection that might not be treated effectively with existing drugs. Of those, 80 000 people could die.
The Cabinet Office document reflects the serious issue faced in Britain by the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance. It says: “the numbers of infections complicated by AMR are expected to increase markedly over the next 20 years”. High numbers of deaths could also be expected from other forms of antimicrobial resistant infection.
Whilst sobering news, it reflects the importance that is being placed in a coordinated approach to tackling AMR at national and global levels. The UK launched a five-year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy in 2013 and published its progress report in December 2014.2
In July 2014, the Prime Minister commissioned a review of AMR, chaired by Jim O’Neill, which will recommend a package of actions by summer 2016. Its most recent report calls for targeted funding to support the development of new drugs, alternative approaches to the use of antimicrobials (e.g. better diagnostics), as well as the establishment of research centres of excellence.3 If this initiative provides the impetus for senior decision-makers in governments, philanthropic agencies and industry to collaborate and agree how best to tackle the problem of AMR, that will indeed be a great step forward.
1. National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies. 2015 Edition.
2. UK 5 Year Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Strategy 2013-2015. Annual progress report and implementation plan, 2014.
3. Tackling a global health crisis: initial steps. February 2015.