The NHS has unveiled a five-year national action plan pledging to reduce its use of antibiotics by 15% by 2024 after the health secretary declared drug-resistant superbugs are now as big a threat as climate change or war.
The new United Kingdom strategy, backed by the prime minister, will see the government adopt a 20-year plan with targets to reduce infection and antibiotic use among humans and in livestock and pets. "Everybody can play a part in only using antibiotics when they're really ill", says the plan.
Drug resistant infections claim hundreds of thousands of lives across the globe.
The plan aims to build on the success of the previous United Kingdom 5-year AMR strategy, which was launched in 2013 with the aim of improving knowledge and understanding of AMR, conserving antibiotics, and stimulating development of new treatments for drug-resistant infections.
"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?"
Health officials in the United Kingdom have raised the spectre of an "antibiotic apocalypse", with concerns that routine procedures such as Caesarean section could become too risky to perform because of the risk of infection.
But humans have accelerated this process through the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture, such as on farm animals, and in medicine. This was the human condition until nearly a century ago.
"Antimicrobial resistance is as big a danger to humanity and as big a danger as climate change or warfare".
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The plan lays out three key ways in which the government will take action against AMR: reducing the need for antimicrobials by lowering the burden of infection in humans and animals, optimizing antimicrobial use in humans and animals through better stewardship, and investing in research and development of new antibiotics, diagnostics, and vaccines. We are looking to boost our understanding of and action in this area by recruiting a specialist in environmental science to our Independent Scientific Group in the near future.
Health secretary Matt Hancock announced the new plan at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in order to raise awareness among global leaders about the scale of the problem.
Also commenting on the issue, Prime Minister Theresa May says the increase in antibiotic resistance is a threat we can not afford to ignore: "It is vital that we tackle the spread of drug-resistant infections before routine operations and minor illnesses become life-threatening".
A lack of effective antibiotics could result in simple operations such as caesarean sections or hip replacements becoming too risky to perform.
The pharmaceutical industry will also be expected to take more responsibility for antibiotic resistance. It is vital that we tackle the spread of drug-resistant infections before routine operations and minor illnesses become life-threatening.
I am proud of the work the United Kingdom has done to secure antimicrobial resistance on the global agenda. "We will continue to work with our partners to drive global action that will protect the health of future generations".
At present, there are just 28 new projects in late-stage development worldwide, with very few new drugs making it onto the market each year.