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Antimicrobial Resistance. A challenge to global health care systems. (The day that Dr Who visited the Vale 50+ Forum on 7th March 2019.)

Our Health and Equalities Group met at the civic offices to hear a presentation on antimicrobial resistance from Helen Ronchetti and two colleagues from Public Health Wales. They took us in the Public Health Tardis back to the early 19th century with a whistle stop tor through to the 21st century.

When Cardiff and Barry were the leading world exporters of coal the main ways of fighting infection were a variety of cleanliness measures building on the work of Florence Nightingale .Infection was rife through poor sanitation , slum housing and poor working conditions . Mothers and babies died at birth and the first years of life and there was a good chance of dying from infection after operations. Isolation hospitals(one on Flatholme ) cared for seamen with infectious diseases and people with TB.

We travelled through the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century seeing improvements in sanitation , working class housing, the use of soap and improved maternity care , with health visitors in the community to support and encourage early child development.

In the mid- twentieth century there was a revolution in dealing with infection with the discovery of penicillin and a new weapon to prevent and fight infection. A whole generation of antibiotics developed in the fifty years afterWW2. But microbes fought back and developed resistance to antibiotics and gradually reduced their effectiveness. Since the 1980s no new classes of antibiotics have emerged. Antimicrobial resistance is estimated to cause 700,000 deaths globally each year. This is predicted to rise to 10 million by 2050 if no action is taken. Imagine a world in which any surgical operation would have a risk of fatal infection.

This vivid presentation with pictures of slum tenements , the ports of Barry and Cardiff and the harsh working conditions was a wake-up call and the government is mounting a campaign to contain and prevent antimicrobial resistance by 2040.

Our group members discussed how to get to grips with antimicrobial resistance and we can all play a part:

Antibiotics do not work for: colds; flu; vomiting; most coughs; most ear infections; most sore throats; most diarrhoea; most cystitis. Take the advice of your pharmacist.

Antibiotics are needed for: serious bacterial infections including: sepsis; pneumonia; urinary tract infections; sexually transmitted infections ; meningococcal meningitis.

The National Institute for Health Research is sponsoring a campaign for to control antimicrobial resistance. Dr Jane Minton, NHIR Specialist Lead for Infection said: “Antimicrobial resistance is a major threat to health care , but new antibiotics are not the only solution; antibiotic stewardship, vaccines and new diagnostics all have a role to play.”

Ron Walton.

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