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UK health officials issue antibiotic resistant infections warning

UK health officials warn of an increase in antibiotic resistance, which they say is due to an increase in social mixing, as well as an increase in cold symptoms this winter.

Whilst there was a drop in antibiotic-resistant infections in 2020 for the first time since 2016, the UK Health Security Agency, ahead of World Antibiotics Awareness Week, warn that the drop is temporary if we don’t ‘act responsibly.’

Health officials warn that this is likely driven by changes in behaviour, prescribing and healthcare in 2020, as well as the significance of decreased social mixing, increased hand hygiene and fewer hospital admissions.

pile of blister packs of colorful medicine tablets

One in five people with a bloodstream infection in 2020 were antibiotic-resistant. This suggests that resistant infections are likely to rise in the post-pandemic years and will require ongoing action.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA, described this as a ‘hidden pandemic,’ she said: ‘It is likely that Covid-19 restrictions in 2020 including enhanced infection, prevention and control measures also played a part in driving down antibiotic resistance and prescribing. While these measures were severe, serious antibiotic-resistant infections will rise once again if we don’t act responsibly and that can be as simple as regular and thorough handwashing.

‘As we head into winter, with increasing amounts of respiratory infections in circulation it’s important to remember that antibiotics are not needed for many cold-like symptoms. Stay at home if you feel unwell. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them only puts you and your loved ones at more risk in the future so please listen to your GP, nurse, dentist or pharmacist’s advice.’

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