SelectScience Interview: New Weaponry Available in Antimicrobial Resistance Fight: Don’t Send Us Back to the Dark Ages! Part 1

26 Nov 2014

The European Antibiotics Awareness Day raised international awareness of antimicrobial resistance in Australia, Canada and the USA. Randox Laboratories announced its support for the call for patients and prescribers to ‘resist and desist’ antibiotic use in an effort to curb the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Sonia Nicholas, Clinical Diagnostics Editor, spoke to Dr Peter FitzGerald, Managing Director at Randox Laboratories, about the rising use of antibiotics and a new multiplex respiratory assay that could help physicians make improvements to their antibiotic prescriptions.

SN: Can you tell us a little bit about the rise in use of antibiotics over the last century?

PF: Since their discovery at the beginning of the 20th century, antibiotics have been hailed as the panacea for curing many infections and their use in both humans and animals has become increasingly widespread over the decades. As a result, our overuse of these ‘magic bullets’ as a go-to remedy has brought us to a point where many common and treatable infectious diseases such as Neisseria gonorrhoea and streptococcus pneumoniae have acquired resistance to antibiotic treatment. Whilst resistance can occur through normal evolutionary process, our over-reliance on antibiotics as first line treatment for infection, both from patient demand and prescriber misuse has exacerbated this resistance and is fuelling the global rise of antimicrobial resistance which is now threatening public health worldwide.

SN: Why is this overuse of antibiotics an issue?

PF: Appropriate prescribing of antibiotic treatment is a topic of global concern which has received much attention in recent years. What we are now seeing is that curable infections, such as Neisseria gonorrhoea, are becoming unresponsive to treatment and, with no new antibiotic treatments in the pipeline to replace current therapies, we have reached a dangerous juncture where, in time, we may be defenceless against such infectious diseases.

Indeed, Prime Minister Cameron has said that antibiotic resistance threatens to cast us back to the “dark ages of medicine”, but this doesn’t have to happen. Through a concerted effort by government and by patients, prescribers and the wider medical community, there are strategies we can employ now to potentially avoid this situation from occurring. This fight against antimicrobial resistance begins with new technologies to improve the range of available diagnostics.

Ultimately, such diagnostics will empower doctors to prescribe the appropriate treatment for individual patients at first presentation, rather than adopting a “one-treatment-fits-all” mentality, and thereby contributing to the overprescribing of antibiotics.

SN: Randox recently stated that the NHS could save £500 million annually by more accurately prescribing antibiotics. How could this money be saved?

PF: A recent study carried out by University College London and Public Health England revealed that the proportion of patients given antibiotics for coughs and colds has risen by a staggering 40% this century. In addition, it is estimated that each year one million people across GB spend at least one week in hospital due to respiratory infections. By reducing length of hospital stay from seven days to five days, the NHS could save half a billion pounds annually.

Through more accurate diagnosis of respiratory infections at first presentation to understand both the causal infection and underlying secondary or asymptomatic co-infections, correct diagnosis can be made first-time and appropriate therapy or antibiotic treatment can be administered. Antibiotics can be prescribed appropriately and administered rapidly, or conversely their use can be ruled out, such as in cases of viral respiratory infections, which are unresponsive to antibiotics.

First time, accurate diagnosis is key to improving treatment and reducing the effect of antibiotic resistance and that is why we are hard at work developing new diagnostic tests within the area of infectious disease.

Watch Video: The Randox Molecular Respiratory Multiplex Array

New Weaponry Available in Antimicrobial Resistance Fight: Don’t Send Us Back to the Dark Ages! Part 2.