Antimicrobial resistance is a serious global health crisis seen in almost every country today. But what is it and why is it so important to solve it immediately?
What Is Antimicrobial Resistance
Antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, is an umbrella term for the condition when microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other parasites) grow resilient to medications specifically designed to counteract them. These include antibiotics, antifungals, antiparasitics, and antivirals drugs.
What Causes Antimicrobial Resistance
Antimicrobial resistance is often triggered by underuse, overuse, and misuse of antibiotics, which stimulate the microorganisms to adapt, evolve, and grow resilient. Incorrect prescription and the use of substandard medicines are also a factor. As a consequence, these superbugs make infections and diseases more pervasive and almost impossible to treat.
"There are now many infections that cannot be treated at all. And the problem is becoming worse as the (microbes) are becoming more and more resistant," Dr. Vicky Enne, a clinical microbiologist at University College London, told CNN.
Antimicrobial Resistance Turns Hospitals Into Danger Zones
Currently, people who frequently stay in hospitals and nursing homes — patients and healthcare practitioners alike — have the highest risk of developing antimicrobial resistance and contracting multidrug-resistant infections.
This is particularly problematic for immunocompromised individuals — for example, cancer patients going through aggressive chemotherapy — because their body may be too weak to weather the infections.
A Return To The Dark Ages Of Medicine
Without effective antibiotics, normal medical procedures and surgeries — including cesarean sections, joint replacements, organ transplants — or even simple treatment of wounds and cuts will become life-threatening, just like in the preantibiotic era.
Diseases And Deaths Caused By Antimicrobial Resistance
In the United States Alone, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) estimates more than 2 million diseases and 23,000 deaths are driven by antimicrobial resistance in the country every year.
Worldwide, antimicrobial resistance is presently claiming the lives of at least 700,000 people per year. If this continues, experts say we're looking into 10 million antimicrobial resistance-related deaths come 2050 — many times higher than deaths from cancer, diabetes, road traffic accidents, and other leading causes of deaths.
WHO Releases List Of Antibiotic-Resistant Priority Pathogens
On Feb. 27, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced 12 of the most dangerous families of drug-resistant bacteria to humans. It's divided into three categories:
- Priority 1: Critical - Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and different types of Enterobacteriaceae (Klebsiella, E.coli, Serratia, and Proteus).
- Priority 2: High - Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Helicobacter pylori, Campylobacter spp., Salmonellae, and Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
- Priority 3: Medium - Streptococcus pneumonia, Haemophilus influenzae, Shigella spp.
"New antibiotics targeting this priority list of pathogens will help to reduce deaths due to resistant infections around the world. Waiting any longer will cause further public health problems and dramatically impact on patient care," Prof. Evelina Tacconelli, Head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Tübingen and one of the experts who developed WHO's list, stated.