RPS Chief Scientist responds to antibiotic resistance report

19 May 2016

Today Lord Jim O’Neill’s final report on antibiotic resistance is published.  

Tackling drug-resistant infections globally builds on eight interim papers and is the last from his Review, established by Prime Minister David Cameron to analyse the problem and propose ways to tackle it internationally.

Commenting on the O'Neill report, Professor Jayne Lawrence, RPS Chief Scientist said:

“The development and use of rapid diagnostic tools to determine which type of bacterial infection a patient has is crucial to slowing the march of antibiotic resistance.
“Due to the generality of symptoms of some illnesses such as coughs and colds, it’s very difficult for prescribers to determine the difference between viral and bacterial infections. This means that often an antibiotic may be prescribed unnecessarily for a viral infection.  It also leads to ineffective prescribing as if the illness is thought to be caused by bacteria often a broad spectrum antibiotic is the first type of treatment offered. This is in effect a scattergun approach which sometimes works, but which results in an increased resistance of bacteria to antibiotics.
“What’s needed is a simple test, such as a finger-prick blood test which identifies the type of bacteria present so that they can be targeted with the right antibiotics, which is more likely to be successful.
“I’d like to see patients dropping in to their local pharmacist for advice and a test, so the right antibiotic could then be supplied.  If the test reveals the patient has a viral infection, they could receive advice on how to treat their symptoms and how long to expect them to last.  It’s often a lack of awareness of how long symptoms can persist  that drives unnecessary visits to GP surgeries and requests for antibiotics.”