Five-year antimicrobial resistance action plan launched

25 January 2019

The Government has launched a five-year action plan, along with a 20-year vision for the future, outlining the UK's contribution to containing and controlling antimicrobial resistance in health, animals, the environment and the food chain by 2040.

The plans include targets, such as:

  • cutting the number of drug-resistant infections by 10% (5000 infections) by 2025

  • reducing the use of antibiotics in humans by 15%

  • preventing at least 15,000 patients from contracting infections as a result of their healthcare each year by 2024.

Antibiotic resistance is predicted to kill 10 million people every year by 2050; in the absence of any action, and without effective antibiotics, straightforward, everyday operations like caesarean sections or hip replacements could become too dangerous to perform.

Since 2014, the UK has cut the amount of antibiotics it uses by more than 7% and sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals have dropped by 40%.

Nevertheless, the number of drug-resistant bloodstream infections have increased by 35% from 2013 to 2017.

Antimicrobial resistance associated with the food chain is currently a subject of major interest to many food chain stakeholders. The subject is a complex one, but currently concerns and research are being focused on:

  • the misuse of antibiotics in food-producing animals and the environment

  • certain food processing technologies which could inadvertently increase genetic changes in bacteria, causing them to become more difficult to eliminate

  • the use of sanitising agents and biocides in food production.

Introducing the new plan, Prime Minister Theresa May said, “The increase in antibiotic resistance is a threat we cannot afford to ignore. It is vital that we tackle the spread of drug-resistant infections before routine operations and minor illnesses become life-threatening”.