UKHSA plans nationwide ‘surveillance system’ for antibiotic resistance

Written by Sam Trendall on 26 April 2022 in News
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Software platform will support collation and analysis of data on humans and the natural world

Credit: Sheep Purple/CC BY 2.0

Public-health authorities are planning to create a unified software platform to provide a nationwide “surveillance system” for gathering information on resistance to antibiotics. 

An increase in levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in recent years means that, according to NHS guidance, “antibiotics are no longer routinely used to treat infections… [including] chest infections, ear infections in children, [and] sore throats”.

“The overuse of antibiotics in recent years means they're becoming less effective and has led to the emergence of ‘superbugs’,” the guidance added.

In procurement documents published late last year, the UK Health Security Agency said that “there is currently no routine monitoring of levels of resistant microbes at the organism or genetic level in the UK environment”.

To help gather, collate and analyse this information, UKHSA will lead a cross-government project to develop a “UK-wide… surveillance system” for gathering data from environmental sources.

This system will then “integrate with AMR surveillance across humans, animals and food [to] enable real-time monitoring of antimicrobial resistant infections that transmit between different reservoirs in the environment”. 


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Once complete, the integrated system will “facilitate storage, processing, analysis, automation, comparison and publication and visualisation of AMR-related data from human, animal and environmental sources”, according to UKHSA.

“Data linkage pipelines will allow enrichment of data sets with information from matching records available via big data administrative collection such as the NHS Digital’s Hospital Episode Statistics,” it added. “Environmental sampling and analysis data will be included, provided by the Environment Agency including chemical and microbiological data – as well as clinical data from humans, including microbiological and molecular data) provided UKHSA.

Before embarking on development of the environmental surveillance platform, the agency will work with Deloitte to conduct discovery-phase research and planning.

This is intended to “scope, initiate and set the strategy for [the] platform, linking in data sources from Environmental Agency, Defra, Food Standards Agency and the [Scottish[ National Laboratories programme”.

Deloitte has been appointed to a two-year contract which, subject to UKHSA approval, will also include delivery of the alpha and beta phase development, integration work and, finally, launch of the live service. The deal will be worth £1m if runs for its full 24-month term, and can also be extended by a further six months.

The contract notice said that the integrated system is being developed because, “unless the threat [of AMR] is understood and interventions are put in place, treatments for many common human and animal infections will fail”. 

“Consequently, there is an urgent need for environmental surveillance and action to minimise the ongoing development and spread of antimicrobial resistance,” it added. “This will be one of the first integrated AMR surveillance systems in the world and unique in its consideration of environmental AMR.”

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology. He can be reached on sam.trendall@dodsgroup.com.

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