Antimicrobial resistance arises when the micro-organisms which cause infection survive exposure to a medicine that would normally kill them or stop their growth. This means that the treatments usually used to treat infections caused by a resistant organism will not be effective.
Antimicrobial resistant organisms (AROs) are common place and examples such as Meticillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or Multi drug resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB) are well publicised.
The drive to reduce public expectation for prescriptions of antibiotics has been evident for several years.
What has begun to emerge more recently is an appreciation of the potentially disastrous impact of increased resistance and reduced treatment options. Many of the medical advances in recent years, for example organ transplantation and cancer chemotherapy, need antibiotics to prevent and treat the bacterial infections that can be caused by the treatment. Without effective antibiotics, even minor surgery and routine operations could become high risk procedures if serious infections can’t be treated.
Professor Dame Sally Davies raised awareness in her first in depth report Infections and the rise of antimicrobial resistance in 2011.
The Department of Health, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Public Health England (PHE), are leading the implementation of the UK 'Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy', published in September 2013.