Scarlet fever an omen of antimicrobial resistance: PSA

new antibiotics: gloved hands holding two antibiotic capsules

The re-emergence of scarlet fever in Asia and parts of the UK provides a timely reminder at the start of Antibiotic Awareness Week (16-22 November) that antimicrobial resistance is real and happening now, says the PSA.

An international study published in Scientific Reports and led by University of Queensland researchers has tracked the re-emergence of scarlet fever, a childhood disease which had virtually disappeared over the past 100 years.

Reports suggest that over the past five years there have been more than 5,000 cases in Hong Kong (a 10-fold increase) and more than 100,000 cases in China. Close to 15,000 cases have been reported in England in the past year.

The President of the PSA, Joe Demarte, says these findings and reports reinforce the importance of the Society’s efforts through the International Pharmaceutical Federation for pharmacists globally to drive antibiotic stewardship across all sectors of pharmacy.

“These scarlet fever outbreaks confirm that bacterial evolution is ongoing,” says Demarte.

“Researchers studied the genomes from the Hong Kong and China scarlet fever outbreak strains. They found that these strains carried modified genetic elements including the expression of a new super antigen and resistance to tetracycline, erythromycin and clindamycin which are medicines commonly used in primary healthcare.

“Antimicrobial resistance poses a great threat to the health of people no matter where they live, and this includes Australia,” Demarte says.

“Earlier this year the PSA partnered with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to present a submission on antimicrobial resistance to the FIP.

“Our submission was well received and as a result global awareness of antibiotic resistance was included on the agenda for the annual FIP Congress in Dusseldorf in October. This in turn resulted in an international discussion paper on AMR which will be presented to the World Health Organization.”

Demarte says pharmacists can help combat the spread of antimicrobial resistance locally and internationally by:

  • promoting education about AMR and infection;
  • lobbying governments to establish national strategies, including community based stewardship of AMR;
  • supporting the active preservation of existing antibiotics through optimising use and appropriate prescribing; and
  • encouraging the development of new antibiotics both nationally and internationally.

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