Antimicrobial resistance is a global threat to public health

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of a microorganism (such as bacteria, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it (WHO 2019). New resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat infectious diseases, resulting in prolonged illness, disability, and death.  Also, without effective antibiotics, modern medical procedures such as general surgery, organ transplantation and chemotherapy become very high risk.

Responses to AMR

Global awareness of the severity of the problem is urgently needed, and important actors such as the WHO have already set up large campaigns in order to raise public awareness. The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) has invested heavily in AMR, and the AMR Accelerator programme complements and builds on the achievements of IMI’s New Drugs for Bad Bugs programme, which also focuses on AMR.

Causes of Antimicrobial resistance

AMR occurs naturally over time, usually through genetic changes. However, this process is accelerated by human behaviour. In many places, antibiotics are misused and overused and given without professional oversight. One example of misuse is when people with viral infections such as a cold or flu take antibiotics although they have no effect. Another example is when antibiotics are given as growth promoters or to prevent diseases in healthy animals.

Antimicrobial-resistant microbes are found in people, animals, food and the environment all over the world. Poor infection control, lack of hygiene and insufficient sanitary conditions, no surveillance of drug resistance, inadequate diagnostics all contribute to the problem of increasingly widespread multi-resistant bacteria.