Reduction in antibiotic-resistant infections

ANTIBIOTIC-RESISTANT bloodstream infections fell (15.5 per cent) in 2020 for the first time since 2016 but still remain at a higher level than six years ago, according to new data published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The decline was largely driven by a reduction in recorded bloodstream infections overall, which is likely due to less social mixing, enhanced hand hygiene and changes to healthcare access and delivery.

This suggests that resistant infections are likely to rise in the post-pandemic years and will require ongoing action.

The UKHSA reports that concerted antimicrobial stewardship efforts over several years has led to continued decreases in antibiotic prescribing, which dropped further during the pandemic from 18 Defined Daily Doses (DDDs) per 1,000 inhabitants per day in 2019 compared to 16 DDDs per 1,000 inhabitants in 2020. This was mainly driven by reductions in antibiotics usually prescribed for respiratory infections.

However, antibiotic prescribing in dental settings showed an increase in 2020 for the first time in many years, likely due to the use of “placeholder prescriptions” with the restrictions on face-to-face dental treatment.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA, said: "Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been described as a hidden pandemic and it’s important that we do not come out of COVID-19 and enter into another crisis.

"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."

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