Antibiotic resistance could be the next ‘hidden pandemic’: UK experts

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LONDON – The coronavirus pandemic captured the world’s attention in early 2020 and has failed to let go of it since, but British experts warn that antibiotic-resistant infections, often described as a “hidden pandemic”, must be the next big concern.

One in five people in the UK with a bloodstream infection in 2020 had antibiotic-resistant, according to the UK’s Health Security Agency, and that was even after the number of antibiotic-resistant infections recorded fell in 2019.

There are now concerns that as winter approaches and we slowly emerge from the global Covid-19 outbreak, antibiotic resistance could rise again.

“Antimicrobial resistance has been described as a hidden pandemic and it is important that we do not emerge from Covid-19 and enter another crisis,” Dr Susan Hopkins, UKHSA’s chief medical advisor, said on Wednesday.

“It is possible that Covid-19 restrictions in 2020 including infection promotion and prevention and control measures … have played a role in decreasing and prescribing antibiotic resistance. While these measures have been severe, serious antibiotic-resistant infections will rise again if we Do not act responsibly and this can be as simple as regular and thorough hand washing.”

Antibiotics are essential to treat the bacterial infections that cause pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis and are often relied upon by modern medical care because they protect against infection during common medical interventions such as chemotherapy, cesarean sections, and other surgeries.

However, antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat coughs, earaches, and sore throats as they may have little or no effect.

Even worse, prescribing antibiotics when they were not effective or necessary led to the emergence of antibiotic resistance, which occurs when bacteria do not respond to antibiotics, potentially causing serious complications, including bloodstream infections and hospitalization.

hidden epidemic

Experts have been warning for years that antibiotic resistance could be one of the biggest threats to humanity. The World Health Organization describes it as “one of the greatest threats to global health, food security and development today.”

UKSHA’s Hopkins added that taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your loved ones at greater risk in the future.

“As we approach winter, with increasing amounts of respiratory infections circulating in the blood, it is important to remember that antibiotics are not necessary for many cold-like symptoms. Stay home if you feel unwell,” she said.

During the Covid pandemic, antibiotic-resistant bloodstream infections have declined. New data released by the Health and Human Services Authority (UKHSA) on Wednesday showed that such infections fell from 65,583 in 2019 to 55,384 last year.

It’s the first time such infections have declined for the first time since 2016, but it’s still at a higher level than it was six years ago.

The UK Health Services Authority (UKHSA) said in a statement on Wednesday that the decline was “largely driven by a decrease in the number of infections recorded in the bloodstream overall, likely due to less social interaction, better hand hygiene, and changes in access to care.” and health provision.

However, analysis of bacteria that commonly cause bloodstream infections, including E. coli, revealed that although the total number of infections in the bloodstream decreased in 2020 compared to 2016, the overall proportion of infections that were resistant to antibiotics increased during same time frame. The agency added.

With one in five infected people in 2020 developing antibiotic resistance, the British Human Rights Agency warned that the data “suggest that resistant infections are likely to rise in the post-pandemic years and will require ongoing action”.


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