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20-Year Vision Set Out For Controlling AMR By 2040

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) emerges when organisms causing an infection find ways to evolve so that they survive treatments. This is a natural biological phenomenon, but various factors can increase and accelerate it, including poor infection control practices, the misuse of medication and global trade and travel.

This is especially worrying where antibiotics are concerned because these are required in order to prevent and treat potential bacterial infections that can arise because of organ transplantation and cancer chemotherapy. Without antibiotics, even the most minor and routine surgery and operations could be high risk if infections can’t be treated.

But the government has just published its 20-year vision, as well as a five-year action plan, detailing how the UK will contribute to controlling and containing AMR by the year 2040.

Targets include reducing the number of drug-resistant infections by ten per cent by 2025, cutting the use of antibiotics in humans by 15 per cent and preventing at least 15,000 people from contracting infections through healthcare every year by 2024.

Animals and the environment are also being covered in the plans, with the government committing to working with farmers and vets to reduce antibiotic use in animals by 25 per cent between 2016 and 2020.

Matt Hancock, health and social care secretary, commented on the news, saying: “Imagine a world without antibiotics. Where treatable infections become untreatable, where routine surgery like a hip operation becomes too risky to carry out, and where every wound is potentially life-threatening.

“What would go through your mind if your child cut their finger and you knew there was no antibiotic left that could treat an infection? This was the human condition until almost a century ago. I don’t want it to be the future for my children – yet it may be unless we act.”

Over the last four years or so, the UK has succeeded in cutting the amount of antibiotics it uses by over seven per cent, while sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals have fallen by 40 per cent. Yet the number of drug-resistant bloodstream infections rose by 35 per cent between 2013 and 2017.

Theresa May made further comments, saying that we simply can’t afford to ignore the threat of antibiotic resistance and it’s thus essential that the spread of drug-resistant infections is tackled before minor illnesses and routine operations become life-threatening.

In February 2017, the World Health Organization reaffirmed the need for further research and development of new antibiotics to tackle drug-resistant tuberculosis. At the time, it was estimated that there were 580,000 cases and 250,000 related deaths in 2015. It also published a list of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that were prioritized as posing great risk to human health.

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