During Prime Minsters Questions this week, Zac Goldsmith, Member of Parliament for Richmond Park and North Kingston, questioned David Cameron regarding the life threatening effects of antibiotic resistance.
This could not have come at a more crucial time with the World Health Organisation stating last week that antibiotic resistance is now a bigger crisis than AIDS.
Raising this with the Prime Minister, Mr Goldsmith said ‘The chief medical officer warned last month that we are misusing antibiotics to such an extent that we risk returning, in just a matter of years, to a 19th-century environment where routine operations carry a grave risk of death. A couple of days ago, the World Health Organisation issued a similar warning, saying that we are hurtling towards the post-antibiotic age.’ He continued to ask ‘On that basis, it is surely madness to continue to allow so many antibiotics to be used on our factory farms—about half the total use in this country—when we know that that contributes to resistance.’
Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail commented that Mr Goldsmith’s question ‘showed how trivial the rest of the session had been’ with David Cameron treating the question with the seriousness it deserved. The Prime Minister replied ‘My hon. Friend raises an extremely serious problem, which is global in its nature and could have unbelievably bad consequences in terms of anti-microbial resistance leading to quite minor ailments not being properly treatable. One of the problems is that the way research is done currently by pharmaceutical companies is not necessarily bringing forward new antibiotics in the way that we need or solving this problem.’
There is no debate at all about the link between misuse of antibiotics and rising antibiotics resistance. But there is growing evidence linking the rise in infections with the enormous quantities of antibiotics being used on industrial farms. Just under 50% of antibiotics in this country are given to farm animals in order to enable them to continue living in poor conditions.
The Government recently released figures showing how in 2013 there were 600 cases of patients not responding to last resort antibiotics versus only 5 cases in 2006. Before antibiotics, 43% of people died from infection in this country, at the moment it is 7%. Our Chief Medical Officer predicts if this practice continues without intervention, we could move to a post-antibiotics era within 10 years.
The Prime Minister stated that he had ‘met the chief medical officer to discuss this’ and that he thought ‘there are a number of steps that we can take here in the UK and working with other countries.’ He finished by saying that he hoped to make an announcement soon.
Mr Goldsmith has been the leading Parliamentarian on antibiotic resistance since he was elected in 2010. His work includes chairing the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antibiotics where the UK’s top scientists provide hard hitting evidence of the importance of government action on this debate as well working with the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics. This organisation was set up in 2011 by The Soil Association, Sustain and Compassion in World Farming to work together in preventing the overuse of antibiotics on farms to reduce the potential impact on human health
For more detail on Mr Goldsmith’s Parliamentary work on antibiotic resistance over the past year, please refer to Hansard with the relevant links below:
9th January 2013- Debate: Antibiotics (Intensive Farms) http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130109/halltext/130109h0002.htm#13010947000087
11th June 2013 – Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130611/debtext/130611-0001.htm#13061171000947
24th June 2013- Antibiotics http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130624/text/130624w0003.htm#1306254000453
25th June 2013- Antibiotics http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130625/text/130625w0001.htm#13062592000604
3rd September 2013- E. Coli http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130903/text/130903w0003.htm#13090455002810
5th September 2013- Veterinary Medicine: Antibiotics http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131205/text/131205w0001.htm#1312062001658
9th September 2013- Antibiotics http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130909/text/130909w0001.htm#13090929000094
14th October 2013- Poultry Meat http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131014/text/131014w0007.htm#13101522003120
24th February 2014- Veterinary Medicine: Antibiotics http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140224/text/140224w0004.htm#14022514001782
4th March 2014 – Death: Bacterial Diseases http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140304/text/140304w0002.htm#1403054000682
9th April 2014- Antibiotics: Drug Resistance http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm140409/text/140409w0002.htm#1404103000820
Notes to the Editor
How resistance transfers from farm animals to humans: http://www.ciwf.org.uk/includes/documents/cm_docs/2013/a/alliance_antibiotics_briefing_10_march_2013.pdf
The Alliance to Save our Antibiotics: http://www.soilassociation.org/animalwelfare/antibiotics/alliancetosaveourantibiotics