A great range of antimicrobial medicines have become a critical part of human healthcare and veterinary medicine, both treating and preventing infections. Bacteria and other microbes however, mutate and evolve. New, resistant strains are emerging, faster than we are developing antibiotics, or other antimicrobials.

Five-year action plan for tackling antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most serious threats to health across the world, as certain antibiotics lose their ability to kill particular strains of microbe; and if we cannot develop new drugs that can beat those bugs, then by the year 2050 we can expect about 10 million deaths per year, worldwide, from drug-resistant infections.

Resistance isn’t just a problem for human medicine.  It is also about farming; veterinary medicine; the food chain and the environment.  These are all inextricably linked, which is why we are working together - across government and disciplines, and with public bodies and the research community, to tackle this issue and avoid the threat of a disastrous post-antibiotic era. This collaborative approach is known as ‘One Health’.

In conjunction with our colleagues in the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), and the Food Standards Agency (FSA), we have launched a five-year, ‘One Health’, action plan for Northern Ireland to address antimicrobial resistance.  It includes measures to reduce the need for antibiotics by preventing infection through improved hygiene; biosecurity measures, and the implementation of effective vaccination strategies.

Each of us has a part to play in the fight. Washing our hands is the best way to prevent infections occurring in the first place, and reducing the need for antibiotics to treat them. Also, trust your vet or doctor and accept their advice that an antibiotic may not be appropriate for every infection.

Whilst the scientific community works to invent new classes of antibiotics for the future, each of us can play our part to keep our existing antibiotics working.

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