Antibiotics: Drug Resistance

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the effectiveness of their 2013–18 antimicrobial resistance strategy at addressing the problem of multi-resistant E. coli-like bacteria; what assessment they have made of recent trends in the number of multi-resistant E. coli-like bacteria in the UK; and what factors inform their view of the balance between efforts to reduce transmission and efforts to reduce the use of antibiotics.

Photo of Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

While we can count many successes from our 2013-18 Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Strategy, resistance has continued to increase. In the United Kingdom we have seen a 35% increase in resistant blood stream infections in humans from 2013-17.

The number of bloodstream infections (BSIs) is increasing each year. Although the proportion of antibiotic resistant BSIs remain stable year to year, the burden on resistance increases. This is mostly due to increasing prevalence of E.coli bloodstream infections.

Estimates of the multi-resistant cases can be made, however not all the bacteria are tested against the same antibiotics, so a definitive number of cases cannot be given. The Public Health England Fingertips tool also has an indicator showing the rolling quarterly average proportion of E. coli blood specimens non-susceptible to at least three of the key antimicrobials (gentamicin, ciprofloxacin, piperacillin/tazobactam, 3rd-generation cephalosporins or carbapenems). For England this is 5.5% with little fluctuation over time.

This is exactly why the UK’s five-year national action plan for AMR, published alongside the UK 20-year vision for AMR on 24 January 2019, includes a strengthened focus on infection prevention and control, renewing our commitment to halve levels of healthcare associated Gram-negative blood stream infections (mostly E.coli) by 2023-24. The plan also sets a world-first target to reduce the actual numbers of resistant infections, with the aim to reduce them by 10% by 2025.

We are working with the devolved health administrations to develop consistent methodologies for reporting the incidence and mortality of key antibiotic resistant infections and antimicrobial use to allow us to report progress on the ambitions of the AMR national action plan.

As reductions in inappropriate prescribing also reduces the risk of promoting the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, interventions to reduce antibiotic prescribing or transmission of the bacteria are complementary.

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