UK Health Security Agency report reveals a post-pandemic bounce back in antibiotic resistant infections

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The UK Health Security Agency has shared the results of its ESPAUR report, highlighting the increase in antimicrobial resistance.

The UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) English surveillance programme for antimicrobial utilisation and resistance (ESPAUR) report has revealed that antibiotic resistance is once again on the increase following declines in the pandemic, with more dangerous strains of bacteria spreading in our communities and in hospitals. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global concern but particularly so for people with cystic fibrosis (CF).

Antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics are a crucial part of day-to-day treatment in CF care and have significantly contributed to people with CF living longer. However, with some CF infections becoming increasingly resistant to the antimicrobial treatments available, AMR is more likely to cause permanent lung damage and can ultimately shorten the lives of people with cystic fibrosis.

The latest national surveillance data announced at the UK Health Security Agency annual conference in Leeds show that an estimated 58,224 people in England had an antibiotic resistant infection in 2022 - a rise of 4% since 2021 (55,792).

Antibiotic use in England declined from 2014 to 2020, with large drops in 2020 related to the pandemic. However, latest data now show a reversal in this downward trend, with antibiotic use in all settings (apart from dental) increasing in 2022. Total prescribing rose by 8.4% in 2022 compared with 2021, although remains below 2019 pre-pandemic levels. Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, but inappropriate use and overuse of antibiotics can accelerate this process.

People with CF often live with chronic and acute lung infections, managed by antibiotic treatment. Antimicrobial resistance makes these infections very difficult to treat and they can be devastating. Cystic Fibrosis Trust is funding innovative research to understand and treat harmful lung infections and prevent infections. The CF AMR Syndicate, of which we are a leading partner, aims to speed up the discovery process for new antimicrobial drugs, using the combined expertise of its members and the wider research community.

Dr. Lucy Allen, Director of Research and Healthcare data at Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Antimicrobial resistance is not a crisis of the future, but one that is very much with us right now. We expect that if we get a bacterial infection, an antibiotic will be available to treat us – but sometimes, already, that is simply impossible. Unless action is taken the availability of life saving treatments will only diminish and our ability to drive down infections will decrease, most likely impacting those in the poorest social circumstances worst.

Dame Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency.

To learn more about about the CF AMR Syndicate visit 

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition which causes sticky mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system. It affects more than 11,000 people in the UK. One in 25 of us carries the faulty gene that causes it, usually without knowing.

Since 1964, we've supported people with cystic fibrosis to live longer, healthier lives  and we won’t stop until everyone can live without limits imposed by CF.

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