November 2021

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November 29, 2021

Science Cast

Bridging the gap between Scientists and the Public

Antimicrobial Resistance in a Nutshell

2 min read

WHO has declared that Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity. So what is it?

Antimicrobials – including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics – are medicines used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals and plants.

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. 

As a result of drug resistance, antimicrobial medicines become ineffective and infections become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global health and development threat. It requires urgent multi-sectoral action in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


How does AMR Occur

AMR occurs naturally over time, usually through genetic changes. Antimicrobial resistant organisms are found in people, animals, food, plants and the environment (in water, soil and air).

They can spread from person to person or between people and animals, including from food of animal origin. 

The cost of AMR to the economy is significant. In addition to death and disability, prolonged illness results in longer hospital stays, the need for more expensive medicines and financial challenges for those impacted.

Drivers of Antimicrobial resistance

The main causes of antimicrobial resistance include: 

  • the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials
  • lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for both humans and animals
  • poor access to quality, affordable medicines, vaccines and diagnostics
  • poor infection and disease prevention and control in health-care facilities and farms
  • lack of awareness and knowledge
  • lack of enforcement of legislation

Without effective antimicrobials, the success of modern medicine in treating infections, including during major surgery and cancer chemotherapy, would be at increased risk.

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