Leading scientist urges UK and EU action plans to 'lose jargon' in a bid to win the battle with 'superbugs'

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Professor Laura Piddock, of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Microbiology and Infection

One of the UK’s leading microbiologists is concerned that confusing language and a lack of specific objectives are hampering the global fight against antibiotic-resistant infections.

Professor Laura Piddock, of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection, at the University of Birmingham, and her collaborators have written a report for the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antibiotics. It calls for policymakers to focus on measurable objectives and simple language, among other things.

A summary of the report, ‘Implementing WHO, EU and UK AMR strategies and action plans: has the world lived up to the challenge?’, was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases today (23.30 hrs UK Time Friday November 9th).

The World Health Organization (WHO) submitted a European Strategic Action Plan on Antibiotic Resistance to the WHO European Regional Committee in 2011. The plan highlighted seven strategic objectives as guidance to national governments in European member states to address antibiotic use and resistance.

In response, the EU and the UK government set out to devise their own plans to address the recommendations in the WHO policy document.

The evidence (spanning October 2014 to March 2017) reviewed for the report suggested that although some EU member states successfully implemented many of the WHO recommendations, some appear to have been overlooked.

In particular, there was a lack of evidence to suggest any activity to restrict non-prescription use of antibiotics by people or off-label veterinary use of certain new or critically important antibiotics to human medicine.

Likewise, it appears that little has been done to evaluate the need for incentives to stimulate discovery, research and development of veterinary medicines to increase the likelihood that drugs will reach the market at the rate required to combat AMR.

Professor Piddock, who produced the report while Director of Antibiotic Action - the public engagement arm of the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, said: “The UK has taken significant steps to meet the objectives of the EU Action Plan, which in turn satisfies the WHO Europe Strategic Action Plan.

“Yet there is an absence of objective and tangible outcomes by which to measure success of these plans and strategies. There is also a lack of consistency between the strategies in use of terminology, areas of compliance, and recommendations, which makes it difficult to discern whether the EU and UK regional action plans have satisfied the overarching WHO Action Plan.

“The biggest weakness is the ambiguous nature of the words employed in the recommendations. This ‘jargon’ may limit the impetus for decisive government action in some areas and pose a challenge to finding evidence of fulfilment of the AMR strategy aims.”

The report made the following recommendations for use in future action plans to combat AMR:

  • Use more specific and measurable objectives, and outline the means by which all activities should be evaluated, into all future strategies
  • Demonstrate how all future strategies should comply/align with the WHO Action Plan
  • Develop a harmonised collection of educational tools to address the problems of AMR and antimicrobial stewardship practices for both the public and those working in the healthcare and veterinary sectors
  • Use simple language in all communications
  • Monitor the efficacy of education campaigns through online channels
  • Coordinate a review of progress in the discovery, research, and development of new drugs, including for the veterinary sector.

Ends

For more information or to arrange interviews contact Emma McKinney, Communications Manager (Health Science), University of Birmingham: 0121 414 6681.

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.
  • Piddock et al (2017). ‘Implementing WHO, EU and UK AMR strategies and action plans: has the world lived up to the challenge’. The Lancet Infectious Diseases. DOI: 10.1016/S1473-3099(17)30633-3
  • Antibiotic Action is the public engagement arm of the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC). BSAC is an inter-professional organisation with more than 40 years of experience and achievement in antibiotic education, research and leadership. Dedicated to saving lives through the appropriate use and development of antibiotics, it supports a large global network via workshops, professional guidelines and its own high-impact international journal.
  • About 700,000 people die every year from drug-resistant infections
  • f we do not act now, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could be responsible for 10million deaths per year and $100trillion of lost production, globally, by 2050
  • $40billion is needed over 10 years to take global action. This represents about 0.05% of what G20 countries spend on healthcare, currently
  • AMR reduces the effectiveness of antibiotics. Without antibiotics there can be no treatments for common or complicated infections: chemotherapy for cancer, cystic fibrosis, heart transplant, joint replacement surgery
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