The Covid-19 pandemic has made people more conscious of their personal health than ever before and has created awareness of the devastating impact that infections can have. Indeed, those living with supressed immune systems may have already been far more aware of the fatal risks posed by infection. We have all now witnessed how our individual actions can impact the health of others, and how an infectious disease causes grave global health and societal implications when there are no available preventive interventions or treatment options.
Access to effective antimicrobials underpins routine medical practice and provides life-saving treatments in all of healthcare but, as widely discussed, this basis of modern medicine is under critical threat. Antimicrobials allow a health service to run and enable cancer treatments, like chemotherapy, and operations, like caesarean sections, hip replacements, and bone marrow transplants, to be carried out. Concerningly, despite the need to develop new antimicrobials, the unattractive commercial return for developers and a development process which is long and complex, has meant that no new classes of antibiotics for medical use have been discovered or developed for several decades.
Resistance to antimicrobials is a natural biological phenomenon that can be accelerated and exacerbated by various human factors such as overuse or improper use of medicines, poor infection control practices, and increased global travel and trade. The increased use of any antimicrobial medicine can cause a selective pressure which – by killing susceptible microbes, allowing drug-resistant ones to survive and multiply – allows for the development of resistance.
The threat of AMR upon us now is an existential one, but it is not just AMR that will claim lives, per se. In the not-too-distant future, common infections may increasingly give rise to serious conditions like sepsis – due to the slow uptake of rapid, reliable diagnostics and a lack of novel antimicrobial agents in the pipeline. This situation is currently exacerbated by other global issues including lack of access to clean water and sub-standard sanitation; poor vaccine uptake in low-income countries; and ageing populations with multi-morbidity in high-income countries. In the absence of effective therapeutic options this combination of issues has the potential to become lethal.
In our efforts to tackle COVID-19, the scientific community came together in ways we had never seen before – realising there is just one common enemy in this virus, and everyone is doing all they can to fight it. Since the emergence of COVID-19, there have been hundreds of research programmes conducted around the world, drawing on the collective expertise of many different disciplines. It is through partnership and collaboration that this has been made possible. Whole organisations are putting competitive differences aside to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, moving together with unprecedented speed to find solutions, and this same approach must be made for tackling antibiotic resistance.
Infection is managed across all specialties in healthcare because it is common and has diverse implications. To address AMR and to maintain antimicrobial stewardship, we need to approach infection management holistically.
Read the full White Paper at the dedicated webpage here: https://theimc.org/