A strategy to combat antimicrobial resistance has been set out in a policy document from the Infection Management Coalition (IMC)

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The IMC was set up last January in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and comprises a coalition of partners that includes healthcare experts, professional bodies, pharmaceutical companies, MedTech, and diagnostics.

Their white paper policy document calls for a ‘transformational change’ in the way infection is detected, monitored, prevented, and managed, including by the NHS and in society generally.

‘Existential threat’

Dr David Jenkins, President of the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, said: ‘Antimicrobial resistance is a growing challenge and an existential threat that we must overcome.’

The white paper aims to build on a recent paper by international experts published in The Lancet, which estimated there were 4.95 million deaths globally associated with bacterial antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in 2019.

The report said an understanding of the major pathogen–drug combinations contributing to AMR was vital for future infection prevention and control programmes, access to essential antibiotics, and research and development of new vaccines and antibiotics.

In his foreword to the white paper, Dr Jenkins wrote: ‘We need a bold and ambitious plan with specific and measurable targets, we need significant levels of “new money”, we need wider society to attribute more value to the fundamental importance of antibiotics—and we need these things now.’

He also called ‘for the establishment of a global network of laboratories—be they hospital-based, community-based, or mobile—that all work to a single baseline standard to track and report on rates of resistance to drugs that are of critical importance to modern medicine’.

The UK Government’s 20-year vision for AMR depends on such a network being formed, said Dr Jenkins.

COVID ‘has highlighted the danger of infections’

The strategy coincides with a time when the pandemic has ‘made people more conscious of their personal health than ever before and has created awareness of the devastating impact that infections can have’, according to the authors.

Amongst its recommendations, the report highlighted the need to support healthcare providers in prescribing antimicrobials effectively, from rapid point-of-care diagnostics to determine if antimicrobials are appropriate, through to public health and vaccination programmes to avoid reliance on antimicrobials.

Development of a ‘cohesive policy’ for AMR was an important next step, the authors wrote, and needs to to incorporate infection management plans that include plans for AMR, as well as implementing an infection registry and consideration of the antimicrobial and diagnostics pipeline. While ‘much of this is achievable within the systems and frameworks that already exist’, some recommendations require ‘additional central government funding’.

Dr Ron Daniels, founder and executive director of the UK Sepsis Trust, said: ‘It concerns me greatly that the next pandemic may very well be a drug-resistant infection that the UK and its international partners are currently ill-equipped to tackle, despite the huge advances made recently in this space.’

This article originally appeared on Medscape, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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