Antimicrobial Resistance

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:42 pm on 17 April 2024.

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Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women) 4:42, 17 April 2024

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I will touch on how much more we can do with screening to prevent some infections. This cannot just be about developing new antibiotics; it is about preventing infections and screening for them in a range of scenarios.

To touch on some of the high prevalence internationally, 89% of all antimicrobial resistance deaths occur in Africa and Asia, so we have responsibility to ensure that we help out in those countries that struggle most with the issue. We must continue to ensure that people around the world have access to the antibiotics they need, which is why the £40 million in innovative research through the global AMR innovation fund that my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester mentioned is so crucial. It enabled the development of a new antibiotic for drug-resistant gonorrhoea, the first in 30 years.

Richard Foord touched on the role of water, which requires an international effort. Sanitation is often a leading cause of infection in other countries. That is why we are working hard with other countries and the WHO to improve water sanitation and hygiene to reduce infections occurring in the first place.

In 2022, we made a further £210 million commitment for the second phase of the Fleming Fund to strengthen our surveillance systems. As Jim Shannon said, it is not just about treatment, but about picking up infections and trends and trying to prevent them in the first place. The Fleming Fund is having an impact. Since 2015, over 240 laboratories have been upgraded with state-of-the-art equipment, training and new systems, and over 75 national action plans on AMR have been developed in Africa and Asia to try to get the death toll from antibiotic resistance down. The Fleming Fund leverages UK expertise, with over 3,000 healthcare workers being trained in antimicrobial surveillance principles through a partnership with the NHS.

Looking ahead, we recognise the risks. We are not being complacent either domestically or internationally. Through the hard work of my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, we have put some good building blocks in place, but we need to look to the future. Our next five-year antimicrobial resistance national action plan will be published later this year.