In the finest spirit of investigative journalism, the BBC recently examined the Cabinet Office’s “National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies” and below the dystopian image, “The End is Nigh”, duly told us, “The government always knew a pandemic was the most serious threat to the UK”. Read the full article here.
We decided to do our own digging and see where the risks of antibiotic resistance ranked among the perceived perils of public disorder, malicious attacks, solar flares, earthquakes and wild fires.
And the result summed-up just how decision makers view an issue they simply don’t see as a vote grabber.
You will find the subject addressed on page eight, at the close of the first chapter. It isn’t indexed, though it is above climate change – which is equally worrying!
There is an acceptance in the copy that antimicrobial resistance is an ongoing international issue being addressed by bodies including the World Health Organisation.
The UK government has at least unveiled two sets of plans to combat antibiotic resistance over the last decade. Dame Sally Davies and Lord Jim O’Neill are powerful ambassadors on the subject.
But with the pharmaceutical industry reluctant to engage in finding new medications, the mantel has fallen to the public and of course, charities, to raise awareness and inspire action.
On Sunday November 1st, author and broadcaster Dr Adam Rutherford will be doing an appeal on BBC Radio Four on behalf of Antibiotic Research UK. At this time of COVID-19 and lockdown, when so many charities are feeling the pinch due to the cancellation of events sporting or otherwise, this is a godsend.
In March, Adam endured a bout of coronavirus which was exacerbated by bacterial pneumonia. In a powerful piece prior to broadcast he reminds us how important antibiotics were in his treatment. Adam’s message is also a warning. He says: “if we continue to use [antibiotics] in an unmoderated way, antibiotic resistance will become one of the great health crises that we face over the next few years.”
Adam’s understanding of antibiotic research is drawn from his own experiences. That is what motivates and inspires him to campaign for a safer, healthier future. And he’s not alone. Other well-known people, including Cheryl Baker, are motivated by things that have actually happened to them. Sadly, Cheryl’s mother-in-law passed from C-Difficile and now the family work to raise awareness for the dangers of antibiotic resistance.
In this together
It should never abrogate the responsibility others have to preventing this bubbling health crisis. While incredible and moving, Adam and the Antibiotic Research radio appeal is not enough.
Everyone must work together to defend against the risks of antibiotic resistance. The pharmaceutical industry and everyone from vets to doctors, dentists and farmers need to do their bit, too.
Ultimately though, it is government who lead the way. Given that 10 million people per year are predicted to die from antibiotic resistant infections by 2050, action must be taken now. It is time they ranked its risk as critical and in need of immediate action.
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