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Antibiotic Resistance: A Major Threat

Did you know that antibiotic resistance is a major threat to public health?

To tackle this impending medical catastrophe, a national charity, Antibiotic Research UK (ANTRUK) was formed by a group of scientific experts from 14 of the country’s top universities and 14 biotech companies to develop new antibiotics and to raise awareness of the issue.

Antibiotic Research UK estimates that:

  • There are 400,000 cases of reported antibiotic resistant infections, with 25,000 deaths each year in the European Union; in the UK the figure is close to 5,000 deaths per year.
  • 35,000 people die each year from sepsis of which a proportion can be directly linked to infection with antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Affecting human health and the economy

The way in which antibiotics are prescribed and used must change, in the health sector and within agriculture.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today!

Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, but misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process.  A growing number of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gonorrhoea – are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.

This is not only having a huge impact on human health and mortality, but also has serious consequences for the economy as patients need to stay longer in hospital, leading to increased medical costs.

Reducing the use of antibiotics

There is now an intensifying need to reduce the use of antibiotics being given to humans and animals worldwide. Major food companies and retailers are therefore being urged to prohibit the use of antibiotics in their supply chains.

In the agriculture sector, farm animals, which are reared for use in the food chain, are often given human antibiotics to prevent illnesses.  This is contributing to an increase in drug resistant ‘super-bug’ infections, as humans are becoming increasingly immune to antibiotics. This is a huge threat to global health - as future diseases and illnesses may not be treatable.

Controlling the spread of antibiotic resistance

To address this fundamental concern, food suppliers must therefore change their practices; and, to prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, WHO recommends that the agriculture sector should:

  • Only give antibiotics to animals under veterinary supervision.
  • Not use antibiotics for growth promotion or to prevent diseases.
  • Vaccinate animals to reduce the need for antibiotics and use alternatives to antibiotics when available.
  • Promote and apply good practices at all steps of production and processing of foods from animal and plant sources.
  • Improve biosecurity on farms and prevent infections through improved hygiene and animal welfare.

Without urgent action, WHO accentuates that we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.

Such is the scale of this issue, that antibiotic resistance must be seriously addressed across the globe and World Antibiotic Awareness Week takes place this year from 13th-19th November.

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