The threat posed by growing antimicrobial resistance (AMR), should be considered as serious as terrorism, according to the UK’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Professor Dame Sally Davies.
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Professor Davies urged the British government to raise the issue at the upcoming G8 Summit and warned that AMR poses a ’catastrophic threat’ to the population. Mirroring comments made by the WHO, she added that, unless concrete steps are taken by policy-makers, we may return to a health situation similar to that of the early 19th century.
In recent years, strains of ’suberbugs’ such as MRSA and C Difficile have drawn attention to the difficulty of containing and treating infections which have become resistant to common antibiotics, although incidence of most of these diseases has now been greatly reduced. The new, and more worrying, threat, Professor Davies states, is the rise of ’gram negative’ bacteria, which are found in the gut rather than the skin. These are highly dangerous for older and frail patients, and few drugs remain effective against the resistant strains.
One of the crucial programmes in addressing this potentially devastating threat, according to Professor Davies, is the EU-funded Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), which aims to promote the development of new medicines. A joint enterprise between the EU, EFPIA and the European Pharmaceutical Association, the IMI is Europe’s largest public-private partnership. The CMO added that AMR would soon be added to the UK’s national risk register of civil emergencies, so that preparations could be made similar to those for flooding, pandemics and terrorist attacks.
The EU legislature is currently reviewing a proposal for a decision on cross-border threats to health, which brings AMR and hospital-acquired infections within its scope, and the European Parliament adopted an own initiative report in December 2012 on the antimicrobial challenge. The latter calls upon the Commission to follow up on its 2011 Action Plan with concrete initiatives to address both under-production of new antibiotics and the inherent problem of over-prescribing and misuse of such medicines.
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