Within 20 years people could die from minor surgery unless urgent action is taken to tackle “next generation” healthcare infections, the Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) second annual report has claimed.
While new infectious diseases have been discovered every year for the past 30 years, there have been very few new antibiotics developed, CMO Professor Dame Sally Davies warned.
The CMO’s second annual report said antimicrobial resistance should be taken seriously by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and G8 countries.
Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat. 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.”
The CMO said there has been “good progress” in cutting rates of drug resistant MRSA through better hygiene and believes these measures should be “built upon” to treat new strains.
More work should be carried out by the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries to preserve existing drugs and encourage the development of new antibiotics to fill the “discovery void” of the last 20 years, her report said.
There should also be better surveillance data, not just in the NHS but worldwide to monitor the developing situation.
Infection control measures should be applied to home and community care settings, not just hospitals, Professor Dame Sally Davies said.
The Department of Health (DH) will soon publish the UK Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy, setting out how it will meet the challenge that the Chief Medical Officer has outlined.
The five-year plan aims to ensure NHS staff have the skills, knowledge and training to prescribe and administer antibiotics appropriately.
Surveillance will be strengthened by improving data on the numbers of antibiotics prescribed and trends in antibiotic resistance.
The government hopes this will help reduce the level of resistance and help ensure patients respond to treatments.