Last updated:

Antimicrobial resistance


BMA briefing - AMR: ambition to action

In 2019 the Government published its UK five year action plan for anti-microbial resistance, as well as a 20 year vision which present the Government’s ambitions and commitments for tackling antimicrobial resistance. 

Our new briefing, AMR: ambition to action, sets out the BMA’s recommendations for the key areas in which the Government must take stronger action to ensure it can meet its ambitions. 

Read AMR: ambition to action


Background on AMR

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a natural phenomenon, but is accelerated by the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in medicine. It is also accelerated by use in veterinary practice and modern farming, and can be exacerbated by poor infection control practices.

Doctors have expressed significant concern about the threat of a ‘post-antimicrobial age’, where current antimicrobials will be ineffective due to increasing levels of resistance. 

Antimicrobial resistance represents a major public health issue. Drug resistant infections are already responsible for an estimated 700,000 deaths globally, per year. Without action to stop the spread of resistance it has been estimated this figure could reach 10 million by 2050.

Antimicrobial resistance infographic

Resistance also has the potential to severely limit the ability to carry out many routine and complex medical treatments, where antimicrobials are necessary to prevent infection, such as in surgery or chemotherapy.


A cross sector issue

The inappropriate use of antimicrobials occurs in both human and veterinary medicine. Antimicrobial usage in human health only accounts for less than half of all antimicrobial usage worldwide. Doctors have expressed concern about the ways in which antimicrobials are used in animals, particularly in agriculture, and the contribution this has to the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance. 

More effective regulations are needed to restrict the use of antimicrobials for animals. In particular, the BMA is calling for restrictions on the use of routine preventive antimicrobials for groups of healthy animals and the use of last-resort and critically important antimicrobials for animals.

The BMA supports a ‘one health’ approach to tackling antimicrobial resistance, which recognises that action is required across human medicine, veterinary practice and agriculture to minimise unnecessary or inappropriate use of antimicrobials, to ensure they continue to be effective in treating infections.

Antimicrobial resistance infographic


BMA briefings

Antimicrobial resistance: A briefing from the BMA board of science

The Board of Science hosted a symposium in May 2018 to discuss the opportunities for the health and veterinary sectors to combat AMR. Read the key themes.

The challenges of antimicrobial prescribing in primary care (BMA blog)


Further resources

GOV.UK - UK five year antimicrobial resistance strategy 2019 to 2024
Review on antimicrobial resistance – Tackling drug-resistant infections globally
Antibiotic Guardian - Make a pledge to keep antibiotics working
Public Health England -Managing common infections: guidance for primary care
The Practice - The challenges of antimicrobial prescribing in primary care
BellaMoss Foundation - Together we can #BeatTheBugs