Increase in drug-resistant infections could put 10 million lives in the UK at risk

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) should be taken more seriously, yet more than 99% of the population are not fully aware of its impact. This is despite the outgoing UK Chief Medical Officer saying earlier this year that Superbugs “could kill us before climate change does”.

Superbugs, bacteria which develop resistance, already cause more than 700,000 deaths every year and the figure could rise to 10 million by 2050.

But, only 11% of Britons view AMR as a serious threat to society, ranking it below climate change (50%), religious conflicts (27%), and unemployment (23%), according to new research from Pfizer UK.

Antibiotics have saved millions of lives since they were first discovered – but a world without antibiotics, where people die from infections which are currently treatable, could be closer than we think. Routine procedures, from c-sections to hip replacements, would become life-threatening – effectively any infection could become a death sentence, especially for those with a weakened immune system – for instance those undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer. However, three-quarters of people asked don’t know or don’t believe that resistance could make caesareans too risky to perform.

Susan Rienow, Hospital Business Unit Lead, Pfizer UK:

The Pfizer UK survey, launched this World Antibiotics Awareness Week, demonstrates that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the dangers Superbugs pose to society. AMR is a complex problem with no single solution, but a major cultural shift is needed in how we view and use antibiotics. We need to work together to find solutions to ensure that future generations continue to benefit from these life-saving medicines.”

Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, but misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process. This includes using them for things like coughs and colds where they will have no effect.

AMR arises when the micro-organisms which cause infection (e.g. bacteria) survive exposure to a medicine that would normally kill them or stop their growth – creating the so-called Superbugs.

If we do not act today, it is estimated that 10 million lives a year could be put at risk due to the rise of drug-resistant infections by 2050.

What you can do to help tackle the superbugs and slow the spread of resistance:

  • Keep yourself clean and healthy - The simple act of washing hands can stop infections spreading.
  • Use antibiotics correctly - Always follow the instructions you are given by your doctor when taking antibiotics.
  • Keep vaccinations up to date for you and your family - Everyone knows the saying – prevention is better than cure.
  • Spread the word - To win the fight we need everyone to take action.

What Pfizer is doing to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance this World Antibiotic Awareness Week

The WHO’s World Antibiotics Awareness Week (WAAW) aims to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. As a leader in the field of anti-infectives, Pfizer UK fully supports this milestone and is proud to be launching a series of activities surrounding the week.

  • Superbugs ‘Join the fight’ schools program: Pfizer’s national campaign designed to educate students aged 5 to 14 about the real-world issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), whilst exploring practical ways to prevent the spread of infection and tackle inappropriate use.
  • London ‘Bug Bus’: On Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd November, Pfizer UK’s experiential ‘Bug Bus’ will be at Russell Square (21st) and Kings Cross (22nd) in London. The bus will be open to members of the public. Upon boarding, individuals will be able to participate in a series of fun, interactive and educational activities about AMR.
Journal reference:

Teillant, A., et al. (2015) Potential burden of antibiotic resistance on surgery and cancer chemotherapy antibiotic prophylaxis in the USA: a literature review and modeling study. The Lancet Journal of Infectious Diseases.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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