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Colleagues take part in groundbreaking documentary about antimicrobial resistance

the truth about antibiotics

The Truth About Antibiotics Wednesday 30 January, BBC1, 8pm

Nature could hold the key to war against superbugs, as Angela Rippon investigates natural antibiotics in the BBC One documentary The Truth About Antibiotics

Alligator blood, deep-sea sponges, 3D printers and our hands could be the answer to an antibiotic apocalypse it’s feared could end up killing 10 million people a year. This week it was revealed drug firms will get millions to develop antibiotics to fight superbugs.

Angela Rippon investigate the crisis in the BBC documentary The Truth About Antibiotics. She says: “We’ve taken them for granted. We’ve been overusing antibiotics and the bacteria that cause infections are becoming resistant.”

Antibiotics have saved 100 million lives since doctors began dishing them out in the 1940s but over-use has led to stronger, more resistant bacteria.

Already, 40% of E-coli – which can trigger the body into a deadly over-reaction to infection and sepsis – are resistant to first-choice antibiotics. If no action is taken, resistance may become a bigger killer than cancer.

It could make day-to-day infections deadly and rule out life-saving surgery and transplants, as well as routine procedures such as caesareans and hip operations.

Dr Adam Roberts, of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, tells Angela: “We have found organisms that are able to kill MRSA from your hands... there is no reason it can’t be developed into a medicine.”

Angela visited Louisiana, USA, to meet Prof Mark Merchant, of the state’s McNeese University. He has been obsessed by alligators since he was eight and saw one with three legs. He was shocked it had survived losing a limb without succumbing to an infection and tells Angela: “There must be something amazing about their immune systems.”

The biochemistry professor visits the swamps at night, collecting blood samples, and recently struck gold. Angela says: “He has now discovered two small proteins in the alligator blood that could become antibiotics, and a pharmaceutical company has picked up his work.”

Dr Sheuli Porkess, of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, says it takes eight to 12 years to create a new drug and costs hundreds of millions of pounds. She says: “For each medicine you have to show that it works, it is safe and it can be made to the right quality. From the science through to the medicine you can give to a patient, it’s of the order of hundreds of millions of pounds.”

Antibiotics saved Angela’s life when she developed TB in 1949, at the age of five. She knows from personal experience that antibiotics are vital. She says: “In 1949, TB was a killer. I had to be quarantined and I wasn’t allowed to see my parents for weeks on end.

“A quarter of those who contracted TB died. But I was very lucky because a couple of years before, a new drug – streptomycin – had been released. It was an antibiotic and it saved my life. But these same antibiotics that cured me are now failing.”

Dr Tina Joshi, of the University of Plymouth, has worked out how to use microwaves to isolate the DNA of bacteria with a chip on a device the size of a smartphone. It will let doctors prescribe the exact antibiotic for the exact type of bacteria causing the infection within minutes.

Dr Joshi says: “That’s the beauty of this. It’s going to be small and handheld, something like a smartphone. In a five-minute appointment the doctor can say, ‘I’m going to prescribe you this narrow-spectrum antibiotic that’s actually going to treat you’.”

A blood test which shows if patients have a bacterial infection is being trialled by the NHS at one surgery and has reduced antibiotic prescriptions by 1,000 a month. But the test is more expensive than the antibiotics.

In Bristol, Dr Paul Race is looking for new antibiotic bacteria in deep-sea sponges recovered from the Atlantic, and is using a 3D printer to create isolation chips which can grow up to 50 times more bacteria than a petri dish.

Angela says: “Paul has already found five new compounds that could lead to new antibiotics.”

US scientists are working on 1950s research on viruses called phages, which kill bad bacteria. Dr Ben Chan, from Yale University, says: “In a litre of seawater there are a billion phages.

They were found before chemical antibiotics but when penicillin came along it was easy to administer and so we went in that direction.”

MRSA Action UK Chair, Derek Butler and his partner Maria Cann spoke of their personal experiences.

Angela explained that there are things we can all do to defeat the superbugs. The most well-known superbug is MRSA. Just a decade ago it was killing thousands every year.

Derek Butler is one of the people who helped us to fight back. His stepfather John was in hospital when he contracted MRSA and he died in the midst of the outbreak in 2003.

Derek says “Nothing matters until it becomes personal.”

“John wasn’t just my stepfather he was my best friend. On the day that he died we got a telephone call from the hospital to say that he was deteriorating quite rapidly. Just before he died he opened his eyes and he looked at me and I said “just go son, just let go. Don’t fight it any more just go”. And with that he took his last breath and I held his head in my arms and it was heart breaking. I can’t say anything else.”

“When John was dying I said to him that he would not be forgotten and “your death will not be in vain.” We have to learn the lessons and that we have to learn that this cannot carry on, because there are others besides John that have been lost to healthcare infections that are untreatable.”

Derek’s partner Maria lost her mother to MRSA too.

Maria said “Dad misses her terribly. You never know when you are going to need an antibiotic and you don’t want to be in a position that our family was in.”

Angela explained Derek now helps run the charity MRSA Action UK. They campaigned for improved hygiene and screening in hospitals alongside initiatives by the NHS and Government. The impact was quick and dramatic. Deaths in the UK from MRSA have dropped by 80% from their peak in 2006. The story of MRSA shows that if we change the way we do things we can find success in our battle against bacterial resistance.

Derek said “This is a war we cannot win but we cannot afford to lose either and for me that’s the key in this. We have to keep striving to keep ahead of the bacteria.”

They are not politicians they are not scientists they are just ordinary people who have had tragedy in their lives and as individuals every one of us can play a role in what Derek says is a battle we just can’t afford to lose.

Derek Butler Victoria Derbyshire Show

Derek also spoke of the need for advances in diagnostics on the Victoria Derbyshire Show on the day the report on antimicrobial resistance was released on 24 January 2019, the Chief Medical Officer referenced the report in the BBC Documentary The Truth About Antibiotics.

Derek Butler

10th Anniversary of World MRSA Day

tenth world MRSA day

October 2nd 2018 will be the tenth anniversary of World MRSA Day

Colleagues and friends in America kicked off events on Saturday, September 29th 2018, with the tenth annual event of the MRSA and C.diff summit.

MRSA Survivors’ Network joined forces with MRSA Action UK on October 2nd 2008 to raise awareness of this global issue. Significant reductions in MRSA bloodstream infections have been seen in UK hospitals since the introduction of screening and other interventions to help keep patients safe from MRSA.

Screening is now carried out for higher risk patients in the UK and Jeanine Thomas has been campaigning ever since to bring this about across the USA.

C.diff (Clostridium difficile) remains an issue in UK and USA hospitals and in the community setting. With people living longer with more complex conditions, the high use of antibiotics can often bring about a change in gut flora which makes people more susceptible to the disease.

MRSA Survivors’ Network Event is being hosted in Hinsdale, Illinois from 10.30am to 12.30pm. The Master of Ceremony is Evening News Anchor for NBC5 Chicago Rob Stafford, free MRSA screening is being made available to the first 80 attendees and they will hear from Professor Michael S Pulia from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

World MRSA Day coincides with the Annual Infection Prevention Society Conference in Glasgow and MRSA Action UK will be encouraging members and delegates to mark the day by making pledges to say what they will be doing raise awareness and encourage good infection prevention and control.

Hand hygiene, good aseptic technique and appropriate prescribing of antibiotics remain the corner stones of prevention of infection in vulnerable patients.

More information about the event in the USA is available here

Have your say about what research is important and help keep research into healthcare associated infections in the spotlight

infection wordcloud

James Lind Alliance - Priority Setting Partnership (Healthcare associated infections)

Your opportunity to select the top ten priorities for research

Healthcare-associated infections (HCAI) are normally defined as infections that affect patients in a hospital or other healthcare facility, and are not present or incubating at the time of admission. They also include infections acquired by patients in the hospital or facility that appear after discharge, and occupational infections among healthcare professionals. HCAIs are the most frequent adverse event in healthcare delivery worldwide. HCAI is believed to cost the NHS at least £1bn annually and causes at least 5000 deaths every year. Many patients’ hospital stays are prolonged having a major impact on them and their families.

There are a number of different prevention, identification and treatment options for HCAI. It is important that we undertake research to try to understand which of these are effective and make a difference to those affected. Research should focus on questions that are important to people with, or at high risk of, HCAI, those who care for them and healthcare professionals who treat, identify and try to prevent infections. More....

Superbugs and the Role of Diagnostics - World Antibiotic Awareness Week

14 November 2017

The Longitude Prize and the Antimicrobial Research Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine are holding an event to celebrate the third anniversary of the five year prize. ‘Superbugs and the Role of Diagnostics’ is being hosted on Tuesday 14 November, during World Antibiotic Awareness Week.

Dr Zoe Williams, resident doctor on This Morning and a presenter on BBC Two’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor, explores the lives of those affected by superbugs, the clinicians trying to help them and the teams coming up with solutions to reduce antibiotic resistance.

MRSA Action UK Vice Chair Helen Bronstein talks about her personal experience of MRSA having lost her mum to the superbug.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week

13 November 2017

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change in ways that render the medications used to cure the infections they cause ineffective. When the microorganisms become resistant to most antimicrobials they are often referred to as “superbugs”. This is a major concern because a resistant infection may kill, can spread to others, and imposes huge costs to individuals and society. Antimicrobial resistance threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. It is an increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society.

Derek Butler was a founding member of MRSA Action UK following the loss of his stepfather to MRSA in 2003. This was not the first time he had lost a family member to this organism, his grandfather and uncle also succumbed to MRSA and died.

Derek and his partner Maria Cann worked with Manchester Science Partnerships on a short film recounting their personal experiences with MRSA and the Gram Negative bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

They are passionate about raising awareness and the need to tackle antimicrobial resistance, as these films demonstrate. More...

Conference with European Parliament, Brussels Scientific, Human Health, Husbandry, and Socio-Economic Aspects of Antimicrobial Resistance: Time to Act

28 June 2017

Susan Fallon-Knapper, Vice Chair MRSA Action UK told her moving story to MEPs in the European Parliament. It took courage to speak of events that led to her beautiful daughter Sammie passing away with MRSA at the young age of 17.

The conference was hosted by MEPs Ms. Adina-Iona Valean, Chair and Mr. Pavel Poc, Vice Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and Mr. Fredrick Federley Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.

Sue's presentation opened the event preceding Dr Marc Sprenger, Director of the AMR Secretariat of the World Health Organisation, who gave a Keynote speech on the theme of the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Patient Safety Report "Time to Act", published December 9th 2016.

Speaking at the event, Susan told how her daughter Samantha had died from Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an infection caused by a type of bacteria that has become resistant to many of the antibiotics used to treat ordinary infections.

She gave a moving and emotional testimony on how 17-year-old Samantha never left hospital after being admitted for a relatively minor virus. Over the following four days, the college student suffered major organ failure and it was discovered she had MRSA in her nose, neck and lung. Sue spoke of how her personal tragedy highlighted the growing threat from antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

She was one of the keynote speakers at the half day conference, co-organised by PA International Foundation, which brought together MEPs, physicians and experts in the field.

Sue said "I want to call on the Parliament, on behalf of MRSA Action UK and all those who we support, to put in place rules and regulations to prevent people falling victim to AMR.

"We would like the Parliament to take the lead to ensure we protect our present stock of antibiotics and to help develop other antimicrobials for future generations.

"We are the golden generation who have been born and live in an antibiotic era, who have enjoyed the greatest leap in medical science in mankind.

"But I am asking for you to take the action required so that no one else has to go through what my family and I have been through." The event, which came on the eve of the Commission's new action plan on AMR, heard that bacteria found in humans, animals and food continue to show resistance to widely used antimicrobials.

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