When we talk about the dangers of antibiotic resistance, we talk about the future impact, of 10 million deaths by 2050, of a return to the dark age where hip replacements or chest infections become life threatening.
It’s an abstract, distant future competing with a world of priorities – this can make it difficult to understand why we need to act now to address it. Antibiotic resistance is happening right now, in the UK and around the world. That’s why there’s not a moment to lose.
This World Antibiotic Awareness Week we’re looking at 5 facts you probably didn’t know about antibiotics resistance.
Fact 1: One person a minute
In the UK 5,000 people are estimated to die each year from a bug resistant to antibiotics, although due to non-recording of antimicrobial resistance on death certificates this is likely to be much higher. Global figures are even harder to ascertain but estimates suggest that 700,000 are dying each year. That’s one person a minute.
Fact 2: 12 Priority Pathogens
In 2017, the World Health Organisation published the first ever list of 12 priority pathogens that are antibiotic resistant. These pathogens are ranked into three categories; critical which includes multidrug resistant bacteria (most likely to affect those in hospital or care home settings), high and medium priority which are the more common diseases which are increasingly containing drug-resistant bacteria such as gonorrhoea and food poisoning from salmonella. These pathogens pose the greatest risk to healthcare right now.
Fact 3: 11 million days of unnecessary antibiotic use
Prevention is always critical to tackling a problem. In the case of vaccines, we can prevent people needing antibiotics and therefore reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance. If every child in the world was to be vaccinated against pneumonia, meningitis and middle ear infections (one vaccine), it would prevent an estimated 11 million days of antibiotic use each year.
Fact 4: One in 5 antibiotic prescriptions is unnecessary
Research from British Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy found that one in 5 antibiotic prescriptions is unnecessary. Taking antibiotics when they’re not needed can cause resistance to spread, meaning that antibiotics may not work properly in the future.
Fact 5: 70% of people get annoyed if they aren’t prescribed antibiotics
Evidence from the Wellcome Trust shows that the general public feel irritated or that they haven’t been taken seriously by their GP if they’re not prescribed antibiotics. Increasing public awareness of antibiotic resistance and when and how to take antibiotics is crucial to supporting appropriate prescribing now and preventing the spread of antimicrobial resistance in the future.
Antibiotic resistance is happening right now, and we all have a role in addressing it. As an industry we remain committed to tackling AMR but we’re at a tipping point and need to work with Governments and NGOs to ensure that we have a sustainable pipeline of new antibiotics and vaccines.
Find out more about what we’re doing here.
World Antibiotic Awareness Week runs from 12th-18th November – check it out on Twitter.
Antibiotic resistance is happening right now, in the UK and around the world. That’s why there’s not a moment to lose.
Harriet Adams, Public Affairs Manager at the ABPI