Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
The discovery of antibiotics had a major impact on human and animal health. Following their introduction in the 1940’s the world witnessed a decrease in many bacterial infections -- so much so that a belief commonly held by many senior scientists, was that antibiotics could effectively control every important infectious disease. Others were less optimistic, including the discoverer of penicillin, Alexander Fleming, who in 1945 predicted the development of resistant organisms.
Unfortunately, Fleming’s fears have been borne out and less than a century since their introduction the benefits of antibiotics are facing a crisis. The overuse of antibiotics in healthcare and agriculture, as well as inappropriate waste management and environmental transmission, have led to substantially increased antimicrobial resistance according to the New England Journal of Medicine. It is estimated by the CDC that resistance to a specific antibiotic takes an average of 1 year to emerge after it becomes commercially available.
The cost is considerable. The CDC estimates that U.S. costs of AMR are $55 billion per year, of which $20 billion is attributed to healthcare and $35 billion is attributed to loss of productivity. More broadly, a report commissioned by the UK Government and the Wellcome Trust estimated that by 2050 the cumulative cost to global economic output could be $100 trillion.
COVID-19: U.S. Impact on Antimicrobial Resistance, Special Report 2022, concludes that the threat of antimicrobial-resistant infections is not only still present but has gotten worse—with resistant hospital-onset infections and deaths both increasing at least 15% during the first year of the pandemic.
New @CDC_AR report shows #AntibioticResistance infections and antibiotic use surged in 2020—especially in U.S. hospitals. More prevention actions are needed. Read the report: COVID-19 & Antibiotic Resistance.
Antibiotic-resistant infections could dwarf the COVID-19 pandemic. Boston Globe Editorial. July, 2022.
The Imminent Need to Address AMR
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is occurring now. In a recent global assessment, an estimated 4.95 million deaths associated with bacterial AMR occurred in 2019, including 1.27 million deaths directly attributable to bacterial AMR1. Compared with all underlying causes of death, AMR was the third leading cause of death after ischemic heart disease and stroke.
What is antimicrobial resistance?
Antimicrobial Resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites change over time and no longer respond to antimicrobial medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness, and death. As a result of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective, and infections become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat.
Why is antimicrobial resistance a global concern?
The emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens that have acquired new resistance mechanisms, leading to AMR, continues to threaten our ability to treat common infections. Especially alarming is the rapid global spread of multi- and pan-resistant bacteria (also known as “superbugs”) that cause infections that are not treatable with existing antimicrobial medicines such as antibiotics. The clinical pipeline of new antimicrobials is dry. In 2019 WHO identified 32 antibiotics in clinical development that address the WHO list of priority pathogens, of which only six were classified as innovative2. Furthermore, a lack of access to quality antimicrobials remains a major issue. Antibiotic shortages are affecting countries at all levels of development and especially in health-care systems.
Antibiotics are becoming increasingly ineffective as drug resistance spreads globally, leading to more difficult to treat infections and death. New antibacterials are urgently needed. However, if people do not change the way antibiotics are used now, these new antibiotics will suffer the same fate as the current ones and become ineffective.
1 C. Murray, et al. "Global burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019: a systematic analysis", The Lancet, vol. 399, no. 10325, Feb. 12, 2022, p. 629-655, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)02724-0/fulltext#%20