The “fashion week” of antimicrobial resistance has just drawn to a close. As we mentioned in an earlier post marking the start of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, this annual initiative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) ran from 18 to 24 November this year.
Like countless other public-health and research centres working in the fields of microbiology and antimicrobial resistance, the Antimicrobial Resistance Initiative at ISGlobal has, through various research and education projects, spent the last several days spreading the word about the health impact of antimicrobial resistance and the importance of making proper use of the treatments currently available for bacterial infections.
The “fashion week” of antimicrobial resistance –the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week– has just drawn to a close. We spent the last several days spreading the word about the health impact of antimicrobial resistance and the importance of making proper use of the treatments for bacterial infections
After this wave of outreach, it’s time for us to catch our breath and check that we have truly absorbed the basic concepts that any good ambassador against antimicrobial resistance should understand.
First, a quick review of key concepts:
- Bacteria are single-cell organisms found both inside and outside of our bodies. Under normal conditions, most of the bacteria living in our bodies are beneficial.
- Antibiotics are medicines that are only effective at treating infections caused by bacteria. They cannot cure viral infections, which usually clear up without treatment after a few days. You should never take antibiotics for nasal congestion or the flu, for example.
- Antibiotics should be taken ONLY when necessary. Overuse of antibiotics is a big problem. Abuse or misuse of these medicines exacerbates the phenomenon of antimicrobial resistance.
- Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of bacteria to survive the effects of an antibiotic.
- Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics through various mechanisms, including genetic mutation and the production of specific proteins called enzymes that can degrade and inactivate an antibiotic.
- Genes for antimicrobial resistance can be transferred between bacteria of different species, posing an additional problem in controlling the spread of resistance.
- Infections caused by pan-resistant bacteria—those capable of surviving all known antibiotics—are the biggest problem of all.
- Why is antimicrobial resistance such a serious problem? For several reasons:
- Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can spread rapidly within a community with a resistant clone that is more difficult to treat.
- Finding and testing a new ready-to-use antibiotic is a very costly and time-consuming process; meanwhile, bacterial resistance is spreading rapidly.
- The use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals can contribute to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food, which can then be transferred to people, thereby reducing the effectiveness of antimicrobial drugs in treating human disease.
- One key battlefront in the war against antimicrobial resistance is the development of rapid diagnostic tests capable of:
- Identifying the microorganisms and their resistance profile as quickly as possible and choosing the correct treatment.
- Preventing the use of inappropriate antibiotics.
- Shortening hospital stays and therefore reducing hospitalisation costs.
January 2020 saw the launch of AMR DetecTool, an international project involving 14 European institutions whose objective is to validate a rapid test for detecting antimicrobial resistance from clinical samples in just 30 minutes.
January 2020 saw the launch of AMR DetecTool, an international project involving 14 European institutions whose objective is to validate a rapid test for detecting antimicrobial resistance from clinical samples in just 30 minutes
As you can see, antimicrobial resistance is a complex problem that requires a joint effort on the part of researchers and public-health policymakers—as well as the rest of us.
How can we help to solve this problem? Mainly by practising good hygiene to prevent contagion and by avoiding self-medication: never use antibiotics unless you have a doctor’s prescription. We already have one pandemic; let’s work together to prevent the next one.
Are you ready? Take this quiz to measure your knowledge about antimicrobial resistance and enter to win a copy of our Micro-Combat card game: