In short, many of the infections and diseases that were easily and successfully treated previously are now becoming more difficult to address. The microorganisms causing disease have become increasingly resistant to the medications meant to destroy them.
For example, some of the common infections that we see, such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and VRE (Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus) are new strands that are resistant to previously treatable infections.
This is a dangerous trend, as antimicrobial resistance leads to multiple issues:
- Longer recovery from illness
- More complicated illnesses
- Increased doctor visits
- Increased need for stronger and more expensive medications
- Increased deaths from infections
Recent developments have been put in place to prevent, or at least slow, the development of antimicrobial-resistant organisms.
The first major development has been the recognition of this trend not being a national issue for any one country, but a global issue.
Members of the World Health Organization (WHO) agreed to adopt a global action plan aimed at developing and sharing solutions and best practices that all countries can implement to reduce resistance. As part of the action plan, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been working with American hospitals to provide safe and reasonable guidelines for antibiotic prescriptions.
The Global Action Plan has five strategic objectives:
- To improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance
- To strengthen surveillance and research
- To reduce the incidence of infection
- To optimize the use of antimicrobial medicines
- To ensure sustainable investment in countering antimicrobial resistance
Secondly, many different countries are developing their own organizations to help address the fight against antimicrobial resistance.
Singapore is developing a group called One Health ARM to provide a whole government effort in the fight to stop antimicrobial resistance. The workgroup will focus on three main areas:
- coordinating the surveillance activities of the problem across the different agencies;
- research on the factors that are related to it; and
- cooperating with overseas partners, as diseases may cross borders.
Likewise, in Atlanta, Emory University is developing an antibiotic-resistance center. A primary goal is to build diagnostic tests using mutated bacteria collected by the national surveillance system and physicians in their own clinic that can spot resistant bacteria.
Lastly, global collaboration is a development that holds great merit and promise in combatting antimicrobial resistance.
With travel being easier, more available, and more affordable than ever, the opportunity for diseases to transfer from person to person, and subsequently from country to country, is a dangerous reality. Which is why collaboration among nations internationally is vital.
Dr. Lam, a speaker at the Public Health Thought Leadership Dialogue on Antimicrobial Resistance, held at the National University of Singapore, noted, “Our domestic efforts must be complemented by cooperation and partnerships with our neighbours and international counterparts, where we learn from each other through the sharing of best practices in our collective effort to fight AMR.
Similarly, Emory University’s antibiotic-resistance center director David Weiss stated, œThe goal is to have scientists, clinicians, and epidemiologists all working together to address this issue. That’s something that hasn’t traditionally happened. There has been division between what the scientists and clinicians are doing.
These efforts span across different professions and, therefore, require a wide variety of professionals to work collaboratively, rather than separately. Given the global impact of ARMs, international efforts will surely be required.
As with any major healthcare crisis, funding is an issue that needs to be addressed. Luckily, many governments have allocated funds to help. The US National Institute of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority have set up a biopharmaceutical accelerator called CARB-X. The fund is allotting $48 million to support antibiotic drug discovery projects3. Other government agencies have involvement as well, including the WHO and CDC.
Antimicrobial resistance is a real issue that could lead to the next big world health crisis if it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Luckily, local and global efforts are being introduced to combat AMR, and funds are being put in place to ensure these efforts will be sustainable and effective.