Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is typically the resistance of microorganisms to antimicrobial drugs that were originally effective in treating infections caused by the microorganisms. Such microorganisms may include bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, and they can withstand attacks by antimicrobial drugs like antibiotics. Resistant strains evolve naturally especially when microorganisms replicate erroneously. This could also happen whenever resistant traits are continuously exchanged between the microorganisms. This paper entails a study on communicable diseases in the context of antimicrobial resistance. The health problem is hardly restricted to the United Kingdom, but rather, it is a concern to the entire world. The problem requires significant actions from local level, national level, to the global level. Antimicrobial resistance has become a major health concern in both the UK and around the world. It seems to be an increasing threat to global public health, and therefore, it requires serious action across all governments, sectors, and societies (Aronsson, et al., 2009).
Part A: AMR as a Major Health Issue
The discovery of antibiotics has been considered one of the most important medical achievements in the 20th century (Sharma, 2010). The emergence of antimicrobial resistance is, therefore, a great a huge blow to this discovery. This consideration brings about the assertion that “there are few public health issues of greater importance than antimicrobial resistance.” The statement also implies that AMR is a health issue that is given more priority than many other health issues in the UK. This notion can be justified by considering the impact of antimicrobial resistance to society and its ever-increasing concern (The UK Department of Health, 2013). First, it is difficult to eradicate AMR. Multiple disciplinary approaches that involve various partners can, nevertheless, limit the risk associated with the health issue, thereby minimizing its impact on health. Today, infections are increasing at a great rate such that it has become impossible to treat them. The swift spreading of multi-drug resistance bacteria implies that it may reach a point whereby treating of infections or diseases becomes highly impossible. This aspect has created a major medical issue especially considering the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance resulting from cheap but effective drugs. Typically, antimicrobial resistance has been found to be common in microorganisms that cause the most communicable diseases (Sharma, 2010). These diseases include diarrhoea, respiratory tract infections, meningitis, and sexually transmitted diseases as well as other hospital-acquired infections. Antimicrobial resistance to penicillin, vancomycin-resistant, methicillin-resistant, multi-resistant salmonellae and antimicrobial-resistant to tuberculosis drugs are the commonly known resistant’s to the respective antibiotics (Sharma, 2010).
Researchers have confirmed that AMR keeps on posing high threat to the effective prevention as well as treatment of the ever-increasing types of infections that are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi, which are the major causes of the above-mentioned infections and diseases (Sharma, 2010). It may require the health sector in the UK to invest heavily in research that would ultimately invent new drugs to prevent or treat the increasing infections and diseases (The UK Department of Health, 2013).
Due to the accelerating microbial resistance issue (as bacteria, virus, and fungi, among other microorganisms, keep on adapting and becoming more resistance to medicines that are used to treat infections caused by the microorganisms) more focus is placed on AMR than many other health issues in the country (The UK Department of Health, 2013). Besides, there is a low development of a pipeline for new antibiotics. While there have been efforts to conserve the available antibiotics by ensuring an optimum use, their effectiveness is slowly dying out since they are becoming useless with time as microorganisms develop resistance strains against such drugs (Smith & Coast, 2013). The health sector need to accelerate the process of developing better/new antibiotics as well as new and better technologies that would allow faster diagnosis and that would facilitate targeted treatments. Such process is technically difficult and costly and is likely to remain an endless process as new resistant strains keep on developing in microorganisms each time a new antibiotic is introduced. The problem also seems to be in existence forever given that the emergence of the drug-resistant strains is facilitated by the increased antimicrobial drugs use and misuse. Poor clinical practices like unfavourable sanitary conditions, poor practices of infection control, and inappropriate handling of food contribute to further spreading of antimicrobial resistance, thereby generating further infections to people.
Part B: Main Aims and Key Components of Effective Strategy
The strategy in place to reduce the impact of antimicrobial resistance on human health is the UK Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy. The strategy is based on the goal of slowing down the development and the spread of antimicrobial resistance. In this regard, the strategy focuses on achieving three main aims. These aims include:
- (i) Improving AMR knowledge and understanding
- (ii) Conserving and stewarding the effectiveness of all the existing treatments
- (iii) Stimulating the development of new antibiotics as well as diagnostics and various novel therapies
The improvement of the knowledge and understanding of antimicrobial resistance as a health issue will be possible through better intelligence, information, and supporting data. Effective early warning systems would also be required to enhance health security. Conserving and stewarding the effectiveness of all the existing treatments would be done by improving the prevention of infection and through controlling and developing resources for the enhancement of optimal use of drugs in humans. Promoting innovation and investments in developing new drugs would stimulate the development of better/new antibiotics, novel therapies, and therapies. This will also ensure that new therapeutics will be quickly available in the market. To achieve all the three aims as part of the strategic goal, the UK Five Year Antimicrobial Strategy responds various challenges and brings out future activity components that need to be focused on at both national level and global level (Smith & Coast, 2013). The strategy also sets out government roles and the roles of other organizations in human health and animal health as well as in research and industry sectors in an effort to meet the specified challenges.
The three aims would be underpinned through various actions in seven key components. The seven key components are important in the UK’s dedication to solve the antimicrobial resistance health issue. One of these key components includes the improvement of infection prevention as well as control practices in human health (The UK Department of Health, 2013). This supports strategic aim (i) and aim (ii) and it is achievable through enhanced dissemination as well as the implementation of best practices and better data and diagnostics usage. The second key component involves optimizing prescribing practice mainly by implementing antimicrobial stewardship programs than can promote a rational prescription and a better use of the existing as well as new rapid diagnostics. This component also supports the strategic aims to improve AMR knowledge and understanding and to conserve and steward the effectiveness of all the existing treatments.
The third component is the improvement of professional education, training programs, and public engagement. This component is meant to improve clinical practices and to promote a wide understanding regarding the importance of increased sustainable antibiotics use. The component includes the identification of mechanisms of improving guidance uptake for professionals, development of quality standards, and ensuring the adoption of generic prescribing competences. The fourth component entails the development of new drugs, new treatments, and new diagnostics (de Kraker et al., 2011). This development would be achieved through a collaborative effort between players like academia, research councils, and industry among others. In will also involve encouraging public-private investments in the course of discovering and developing a sustainable supply of new and effective antimicrobials as well as rapid diagnostics and other complementary tools that are critical in health and social care. This component is in line with aims (i) and (ii).
The fifth component supports aims (i) and (ii) and it entails better access to surveillance data and its use in human health. The access and use of the data is through new arrangements facilitating higher consistency and standardising the collected data to improve data linkage. The sixth component supports all three strategic aims. It involves better identification as well as prioritization of the AMR research needs. It is meant for focusing activities and informing the AMR understanding (Department of Health, 2012). The components helps in developing alternative treatment to all new drugs and improved rapid tests, new tests, or point-of-care diagnostic tests in an effort to enhance human health. The last strategic component involves strengthened international collaboration. This component is a major are in the strategy since the problem is also a global issue. It involves working with a wide range of organizations, which include both governmental and non-governmental (The UK Department of Health, 2013). Other bodies with and through which to work include international regulatory bodies among others in order to influence opinions, galvanize support, and to mobilize action in an effort to deliver the global scale of change required. Such collaboration will enhance continued demonstration of leadership to build political support at the global level. It will also enhance the support for efforts initiated to strengthen various international partnerships as well as coalitions for facilitating new antibiotics development and the development of other treatments. Assurances would also be obtained from the World Health Organization (WHO) regarding its commitments to enhance the progress pace (Aronsson, et al., 2009).
The reasons why antimicrobial resistance is a major health issue raising more concern than many other health issues in the UK and around the world have already been explained. Given the nature of the problem, it may remain ever-increasing costs to the UK health sector if the right strategy is implemented. It is therefore clear than quick actions need to be taken to combat the health issue (Aronsson, et al., 2009). Some key actions to be taken could include ensuring good infection prevention as well as control measures that would help prevent any occurring infections. Such practice should become a common norm in all human health sectors. It is also important to diagnose infections as quickly as possible and initiate the right treatment. Patients should be advised to understand the importance of using and adhering to antibiotic treatment regimens. Monitoring new threats is very critical, which could only be possible through surveillance (The UK Department of Health, 2013). Identification of such new threats and any changing patterns in antimicrobial resistance would be of significant use. Once the strategy is implemented, there should be an adequate supply of new antimicrobials that are highly effective. These actions and the implementation of the UK Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy would ultimately see the health issue solved.
Aronsson, B. et al., 2009. The bacterial challenge: time to react. European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and European Medicines Agency joint report. [Online]
Available at: http://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/Publications/0909_TER_The_Bacterial_C hallenge_Time_to_React.pdf
[Accessed 18 November 2014].
de Kraker et al., 2011. The burden of antimicrobial resistance in European hospitals: excess mortality and length of hospital stay associated with bloodstream infections due to Escherichia coli resistant to third-generation cephalosporins. J Antimicrob Chemother, 66(2), pp. 398-407.
Department of Health, 2012. UK Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy and Action Plan, Technical Engagement Exercise. [Online]
Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-antimicrobial
[Accessed 18 November 2014].
Smith, R. & Coast, J., 2013. The true cost of antimicrobial resistance. BMJ, Volume 346.
The UK Department of Health, 2013. UK Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2013 to 2018. London: Richmond House.
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