Public Health England launches new infectious disease strategy

Over the last decade, 19 new genetic mechanisms of antibiotic resistance have been identified in bacteria causing infections in the UK. The findings come as Public Health England (PHE) sets out a new 5-year infectious diseases strategy to address urgent current and future threats to our health.

Threats to public health in England include:

  • antibiotic resistance
  • declining vaccination rates
  • pandemic flu
  • emerging diseases
  • health inequalities

The new strategy seeks to strengthen PHE’s ability to prevent, detect, respond to and reduce the impact of infectious diseases. Working with partners across the ‘public health family’, including NHS and local authorities, PHE will integrate innovative new diagnostic technologies and world-class surveillance systems, to implement unrivalled infection prevention and control capabilities within our changing world.

New mechanisms of antibiotic resistance add to the emerging infections threatening the country’s health, with the majority of the genetic changes in bacteria causing resistance to ‘last resort’ antibiotics such as carbapenems and colistin.

Globally, the infectious diseases challenges of today are amplified by increased movement of people and climate change. These increase the chances that we will witness a global pandemic in the coming years, including pandemic influenza and novel viruses such as the so-called ‘Disease X’, which is a hypothetical epidemic caused by a yet identified virus or bacteria.

PHE is already seeing a rise in ‘emerging infections’ – newly recognised diseases that are increasing in a specific place, or among a specific population. A total of 12 diseases and infections were detected in England for the first time in the last 10 years – either acquired abroad or in this country.

These identified diseases include:

  • swine flu
  • Middle East respiratory syndrome
  • Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever
  • monkeypox