AMR: Why YOU Should Care
This is the second installment in a blog series about awareness of antibacterial resistance that will lead to World Antibiotic Awareness Week, November 12-18, 2018. Check back for more blog posts throughout the coming weeks!
Antibiotics are rarely heralded as medical innovations in news headlines. However, the reality is that antibiotics have represented the hidden backbone of modern medicine for several decades – enabling physicians to perform complex surgeries, and curing infections that were once considered life-threatening.
Alarmingly, the future of antibiotics is now under threat due to the rise of antimicrobial resistance, or AMR. AMR refers to the process by which microbes mutate and find ways to resist the effects of antibiotics. It has been identified as one of the biggest threats to global public health today by the World Health Organization.
What’s more, AMR can affect anyone. It can very easily affect you or someone you know. It doesn’t discriminate based on gender, age, or geography. Any one of us could potentially be at risk.
Currently, AMR results in 700,000 deaths annually, but, without any action, this figure is expected to rise to 10,000,000 by 2050 – which is more than the number of deaths from cancer. If antimicrobial resistance continues to rise, then procedures such as organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy and caesarean sections could become too high-risk to perform.
You may be wondering what we can do as a society to help address the threat of AMR and protect global public health. Fortunately, the answer is: “a lot.”
Government, industry, and each and every one of us have a responsibility in tackling the threat of AMR – we can only help reduce the spread by working together.
- At a government level, strengthened stewardship guidance, increased access to, and use of, vaccines, and comprehensive surveillance will help ensure the antibiotics we have today will continue to be effective tomorrow. Additionally, both push and pull incentives for antimicrobial drug research and development could help more companies expand the research and development of new antibiotics and vaccines. You might be surprised to learn that, unfortunately, the cycle of antibiotic resistance development is outpacing new drug discovery; the development process for new antibiotics takes an average of 10 years from discovery to availability for patients.
- Within industry and the infectious disease community, we, too, have a responsibility to ensure that antibiotic surveillance and stewardship guidelines are adhered to, with appropriate prescription of the right antibiotic at the right time. Responsible manufacturing practices are also critical to minimize impact to human health and the environment. And we must work to provide patients with access to both vaccines and anti-infectives. The AMR Industry Alliance is one of the largest private sector coalitions set up to provide sustainable solutions to curb antimicrobial resistance, comprised of over 100 biotech, diagnostics, generics and research-based pharmaceutical companies and associations. Efforts are already underway, as evident by the “Industry Roadmap to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance,” a comprehensive plan of action that lays out key commitments 13 companies within the industry have pledged to deliver to help curb the spread of AMR.
There are also relatively easy steps that each and every individual can take:
- Keep vaccinations up to date for you and your family. Vaccines are administered to help prevent infections from happening in the first place, thereby reducing the need for antibiotic usage that can lead to the development of resistance.
- Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly.
- Always finish the course of treatment if you are prescribed antibiotics, even if you feel better.
- Do not ask your doctor for an antibiotic if you have a viral infection, such as the common cold. Contrary to popular opinion, antibiotics are not effective against all infections, only those caused by bacteria.
The time is now to address AMR. November 12–18 marks World Antibiotic Awareness Week, which is the perfect opportunity to educate yourself and understand the role you can play in the fight against AMR to help preserve these life-saving medicines for generations to come.
Jill Inverso is Vice President, Global Medical Affairs, Anti-Infectives at Pfizer.