Professor Dilip Nathwani OBE
President, British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy & Consultant Physician & Honorary Professor of Infection, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee
Antibiotics are medicine’s ‘wonder drugs’ that have, since the discovery of the antibacterial powers of Penicillium mould by Sir Alexander Fleming, transformed the potential and delivery of healthcare across the globe.
Medicine progressed more in the first 20 years of antibiotic use than in the two millennia prior to their discovery. Antibiotics not only save, extend and improve the quality of life they also support a wide range of therapies that includes joint replacement surgeries, transplant surgeries, cancer chemotherapy regimens and more. Medicine as we now know it would not be possible without them and neither would our expectations of living long and healthy lives be met.
Antibiotic resistance refers specifically to the resistance to antibiotics that occurs in common bacteria that cause infections. The World Health Organization has named antibiotic resistance as “one of the three major health problems of the new century.” Therefore, there is no task more pressing than for us to seek to address the significant problems antibiotic resistance poses so that supplies of effective antibiotics are available now and in the future. You will read here how antibiotic resistance emerges, how it is a natural consequence of merely using antibiotics and how the inappropriate and over-use of antibiotics in human medicine, agriculture, veterinary practice, animal husbandry and other sectors has and continues to reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics in preventing and treating existing, new and emerging multi-drug resistant infections.
AMR is one of the three major health problems of the new century.
This supplement offers much cause for hope in the face of adversity, reporting on how governments around the world, led by the World Health Organisation, have set priority agenda and action plans to contain and reduce the burden of antibiotic resistance. It reports on how charitable organisations, research bodies, regulatory agencies, pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies are working collaboratively to engineer and implement innovative solutions. These solutions should see new drugs discovered and made available across a range of economies, healthcare professionals enabled and supported in better and more rapid diagnosis of infections, all allowing more targeted and effective prescribing. Additionally, the public should be better informed about when to expect antibiotics, and alternative treatments when they are not needed.
It is in this spirit of hope and positivity, and during the first World Antibiotic Awareness week, that we encourage readers to participate in providing solutions to curb the rise of antibiotic resistance and reduce its devastating impact. This publication informs not only about the problems posed and actions others are taking, but offers an opportunity to learn what steps and personal actions we each can take, as individuals and citizens, to contribute to the solutions needed.