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In-practice testing of infections to become widespread, says DH

In-practice testing of infections to see whether they are bacterial or not will become ‘widespread’ in coming years as part of a drive to increase the use of diagnostic technologies, the Government has announced.

The DH has accepted all the recommendations made by chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies in her annual report published earlier this year, in which she warned that antimicrobial resistance posed a ‘catastrophic threat’ if action is not taken.

The DH’s five-year antimicrobial resistance strategy published yesterday said: ‘In the next few years, whole genome sequencing and other diagnostic technologies will move from research laboratories into widespread use, enabling rapid identification of bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens and their genetic potential for drug resistance. This will help the early tailoring of treatment, benefitting both the patient and helping the conservation of antibiotics.’

The Government said it would also increase the use of ‘point-of-care diagnostics to identify where antimicrobials are required, as well as to reassess the appropriateness of the diagnosis and treatment’ and ‘extend the learning from hospital antimicrobial stewardship programmes and prescribing measures to primary care.’

More would also be done to ‘build clinical capability and deliver effective antimicrobial stewardship. Clinicians involved in prescribing need to remain up to date with emerging evidence on resistance and appropriate antibiotic usage. One way to help clinicians achieve this is by ensuring that continuing professional development programmes include the competences required for effective antibiotic stewardship.’

The strategy also calls on GPs to make better use of resources including the ‘Treat Antibiotics Responsibly, Guidance and Education Tool’ (TARGET) and ‘Stemming the Tide of Antibiotic Resistance’ (STAR) and consider the use of non-prescription pads and delayed antibiotic prescribing.

Launching the strategy, public health minister Anna Soubry said: ‘The chief medical officer’s stark warning showed that bacteria are adapting fast and if we don’t take action, we could face serious problems in years to come.

‘This really is a problem that society has to take on together, through better education, treatment and monitoring of bacteria. Whether you’re a patient, a doctor or a vet, we all have a role to play in prescribing and using antibiotics responsibly.’



Readers' comments (1)

  • Before the development of antibiotics, sick people were advised to stay in bed until better. The rule of thumb in my childhood (USA, 1940's) was that you had to stay in bed until your temperature had been normal for 24 hours. Our immune systems were the only defense we had, and they needed to be given a chance to do the work. In our current climate, the idea of resting when you are sick has become anathema. There is no such thing as legitimate time off for sickness, it is all labelled 'taking a sickie'. My daughter, a secondary school teacher, has heard children being advised to come in to school even if they have flu - the 100% attendance rate is the priority over health. TV ads tell us that successful people are the ones who take their cold/flu remedies and carry on. People who have ME/CFS, an illness defined by the fact that exercise makes it worse, are offered exercise as a treatment! Pre-antibiotics, people with TB were put to bed long-term. As antibiotics threaten to lose their effectiveness, we need to return to a culture which remembers that 'sickness behaviour' is what our bodies do so that we have a chance to get better, and 'bed rest' is no longer a dirty word.

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