Last year saw the number of recorded antibiotic-resistant infections dip for the first time since 2016, new data shows – but this decrease was “likely temporary,” a public health body has warned.
Data published today by the UK Health Security Agency ahead of World Antibiotics Awareness Week (November 18-24) shows that in 2020 there were 55,384 recorded antibiotic-resistant bloodstream infections, a 15 per cent dip from the 2019 figure of 65,583.
This decline was “largely driven by a reduction in recorded bloodstream infections overall,” said the UKHSA, explaining that reduced social mixing, improved hand hygiene and “changes to healthcare access and delivery” were likely contributing factors.
An analysis of the most common infections such as E. coli showed that while the overall number of bloodstream infections was lower in 2020 than 2016 “the overall proportion of infections that were resistant to antibiotics increased over the same time frame,” with one in five bloodstream infections last year resistant to antibiotics.
“This suggests that resistant infections are likely to rise in the post-pandemic years and will require ongoing infection.”
While there was an overall decrease in antibiotic prescribing last year compared to 2019, there was an increase within dental settings, as well as an increase in the use of antibiotics of last resort in hospitals.
UKHSA chief medical advisor Dr Susan Hopkins said: “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.
“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.”