Last year there were nearly 150 serious infections a day in England that failed to respond to antibiotics – with experts warning “we are already seeing resistance emerging” to even the latest drugs.
Infections caused by antibiotic resistant bacteria kill thousands in the UK every year and is not a problem “that we can ignore”, health officials said.
Figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) showed that there were an average of 148 serious antibiotic-resistant infections per day in 2021, a 2.2% increase on the previous pandemic year (53,985, up from 52,842).
The total number of infections was still lower than before the pandemic, but the UKHSA said this was driven by things like less social mixing and extra hand washing.
The use of antibiotics – which help fuel antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – also fell by 15% between 2017 and 2021.
AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites mutate and no longer respond to the drugs — including antibiotics — designed to treat them.
This makes the diseases very difficult to treat and increases the risk of disease spreading, cause serious illness and death.
Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, but overuse of antibiotics can speed up the process.
Professor Dame Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UKHSA, said: “Antibiotic resistance is not a distant problem that we can ignore.
“Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria kill thousands of people every year in this country and worldwide, and also have a huge economic impact.
“As we from the Covid-19 pandemicthis is a crucial time to maintain focus on the ‘silent pandemic’ of antibiotic resistance.”
Professor Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UKHSA, said: “We are already seeing resistance emerging to our very latest antibiotics – innovation to find new treatments will only succeed if we manage what we have responsibly.
“Overuse of antibiotics means they no longer work against life-threatening conditions such as sepsis.
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“Antibiotics will not help the symptoms of a cold, flu or COVID-19 – please trust your healthcare provider, take antibiotics only as prescribed, never share them with others and do not save them for later.
“Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your loved ones at risk for an untreatable infection in the future.”