The Department of Health have published a new 5 year National Action Plan to combat AMR (2019-2024) to follow on from the 2013-2018 edition. IPC and antimicrobial stewardship are high on the agenda – but we have a long way to go if we are to fulfil the 20 year vision for AMR: ‘By 2040, our vision is of a world in which antimicrobial resistance is effectively contained, controlled and mitigated.’
I made a flying visit to HIS today in Liverpool to have a debate with Prof Mark Wilcox on whether or not antibiotics are the most important factor in healthcare-associated C. difficile infection. Mark was arguing for the motion, and I was arguing against it. And the result…well you’ll have to read to the bottom!
We’ll be publishing the results of the vote on whether or not we can halve HA-GNBSI by 2021 later this week. Right now, it looks like Martin is heading for a comfortable, if somewhat depressing victory (“No, we can’t halve GNBSI by 2021”) but there’s still time to ride a wave of positivity and vote with me that “Yes, we can halve GNBSI by 2021”. So, I thought that now would be an appropriate time to review the recent JHI paper that both Martin and I referred to, providing some enhanced epidemiological data on E. coli BSIs in England.
A new Lancet ID study suggests that restriction of fluoroquinolone usage has been the main driver of the national reduction in C. difficile infection in England. This paper is challenging in terms of some of the accepted approaches to controlling the transmission of C. difficile: if it’s all about reducing fluoroquinolones (and antimicrobials in general) and nothing to do with these measures, then why invest so much time and energy in isolation of symptomatic cases, cleaning and disinfection etc?
A fascinating new JAMA Internal Medicine study suggests that being admitted to a room when the prior occupant had taken antibiotics increases the risk of the subsequent occupant of the same room developing C. difficile infection (CDI). Quite a few convincing epi studies have showed that admission to a room when the prior occupant was known to have a number of key pathogens (including C. difficile) increased the chance of acquisition for the subsequent occupant. But this study extends the ‘prior room occupancy’ concept into a new dimension!
I am currently reading ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ by Professor Dame Sally Davies, Dr Jonathan Grant and Professor Mike Catchpole (yes, I know I’m several years late to this particular party). I might do a book review for the blog once I’ve finished it – but an interesting question emerged in the early chapters. The author seem to make a point of referring to ‘antimicrobials’ rather than ‘antibiotics’ in the early part of the book, but later on, antibiotics appears as a common term. Which got me to thinking about what is the most appropriate generic term for what most people would term ‘antibiotics’ (what your GP gives you when you’ve got a snuffle, I mean potentially serious bacterial infection)?
Take a look at these three stories on intensive poultry production and antimicrobial resistance in India published yesterday on the Bloomberg website. In accordance with what the movie industry does, these articles should be accompanied by a warning: “These articles contains scenes that some readers may find disturbing”. As the editor of the articles said in an email to colleagues that forwarded it to me: “I think you’ll agree that these are important stories and deserve attention (and hopefully a response from the appropriate authorities and the community).” Obviously, I do agree.
We are all pretty comfortable with the idea that we have used too many antibiotics in the past and now we are reaping the consequences. I think we are also all in agreement that we need to start using antibiotics much more rationally – and keep the big guns firmly on the top shelf, double-wrapped in password-protected packaging that you can only access with a fingerprint and retinal scan (whilst acknowledging that they will still somehow be prescribed by a junior doctor at 3am for a sniffle). But I get the feeling that we all have a bit of a blind spot (or soft spot) for surgical prophylaxis. Here, the situation is different, surely, because the consequence of an SSI is so great that the likely ‘cost’ of widespread surgical prophylaxis is outweighed by the gain of fewer SSIs? But has this become stewardship’s elephant in the room? We are comfortable talking about restricting carbapenem use in acute hospitals, but I don’t hear as much discussion about stopping the use of antibiotics for surgical prophylaxis! On one level, isn’t this is the same arguments as for ‘selective’ digestive or oral decontamination (SDD / SOD) in the ICU? Here, the argument in factor of SDD / SOD is compelling: fewer deaths and less spread of resistant bacteria. But indiscriminate use of antibiotics, which is bound to fuel antibiotic resistance in the long run, just cannot be a good idea, particularly in the high-risk ICU population.
We are in desperate need of antibiotic-sparing approaches to antibacterial therapy. Antibiotic resistance is increasing, and we are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of antibotics on the microbiota. I blogged a while ago about CRISPR-Cas systems being used to tackle antibiotic-resistant bacteria on surfaces. But the same approach could be applied to treating human infections.