Professor Holger Rohde
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Director of the ESCMID
AMR action committee, European Society for Microbiology and
Infectious Diseases (ESCMID), Germany
Dr Anna Both
Scientist, Institut Pasteur, France
AMR is recognised as a major threat to human health, with nearly 5 million people dying each year from infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant bacteria. This is estimated to rise to 10 million by 2050.
The development of resistance is driven by the misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals. Resistant bacteria can then spread through healthcare facilities, within communities and the environment — for example, through food and water.
Why AMR is a threat
Treating patients with serious infections becomes more difficult because antibiotics that may have been previously effective are no longer reliable. This drives doctors to use antibiotics reserved for treatment of the most resistant bacteria. Bacteria then develop resistance strategies against them — a spiral that will inevitably lead us to untreatable infections in the near future.
In a globalised world, resistant bacteria
do not respect national borders.
Progress in the fight against AMR
Fortunately, public health specialists, doctors and scientists have developed a toolbox to combat AMR. In addition to efforts to develop new drugs, we have learned that education and regulation of antibiotic use in human and animal health can have an important impact.
Rapid and reliable diagnostics of infections and antimicrobial resistance will help clinicians make smart choices. Improved infection control measures in hospitals and monitoring of wastewater treatment and the food industry are paramount.
In a globalised world, resistant bacteria do not respect national borders; what happens at one end of the world will inevitably have a global impact. Therefore, only a global effort, involving both high-income and low and middle-income countries (LMICs), has a chance of success. Adapting existing programmes to LMIC settings has been complex due to gaps in both knowledge and resources.
Collaboration among global organisations
Both national and international governmental and non-governmental organisations — such as WHO, the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) and the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease (ESCMID) — have recognised the urgency of addressing AMR and have established programmes, which monitor the emergence and spread of resistant bacteria and provide training for healthcare workers.
ESCMID has made AMR a strategic priority and appointed an AMR Director who will lead a team to improve understanding and combat AMR globally. ESCMID is investing in specific research grants for AMR and developing educational courses with activities supported by a range of study groups that are addressing the AMR crisis.
The immediate imperative is to prioritise sufficient funding and actively engage local health and political authorities around the world to protect against the looming spectre of a post-antibiotic era.