Bacteria resistant to drugs are stopping us from treating infectious diseases and undermining medical advances. So what can we do about it? This WHO Antibiotic Awareness Week Dr Jonathan Pearce, Head of Infections and Immunity at the MRC, explains why understanding how resistance develops and spreads is key to tackling antibiotic resistance. And how using this knowledge, we can find creative new ways of preventing and treating infections.
Enterobacteria grown on a selective agar plate.
Antibiotic resistance is now recognised as one of the most serious threats to human health, spreading across national boundaries. It arises from a complex interplay between biomedical, animal, social, cultural and environmental factors. If we are to meet this challenge, we need to take both an international and interdisciplinary approach.
Last year a UK-China research collaboration took an unexpected turn following the discovery of resistance to the ‘last resort’ antibiotic: colistin. Here Professor Timothy Walsh, Professor of Medical Microbiology at Cardiff University, describes how the global community can learn from the positive steps taken by the Chinese Government.
Antibiotic resistance is really all about people and society. We often blame antimicrobial resistance on the bug and how resistance can travel from one bug to another. But different sectors, for example farming, hospitals and communities, are all critically linked.
In a diagnosis of the global superbug threat today, economist Jim O’Neill includes a recommendation that doctors test patients to find out if their infection is bacterial before prescribing them antibiotics. MRC-funded researcher Dr Tariq Sadiq at St George’s Institute of Infection and Immunity writes here about his research to develop better diagnostic tests that will help us get these results faster so we can make better use of antibiotics. Dr Sadiq explains the need to improve diagnostics in clinics and out in hard-to-reach populations around the world to combat widespread antimicrobial resistance.
Medical advances undermined
How have we been able to make so many advances in medicine? What’s made us so successful at treating cancer and performing heart surgery? Our ability to manage one of their most serious consequences: infection.
Antibiotic resistance undermines those advances and could mean infections that we thought we had defeated, become untreatable. Global deaths from drug-resistant infections are likely to continue to increase over the coming years if we don’t find new ways to tackle them, perhaps reaching 10 million by 2050, if there is no effective action. It is estimated that nearly half of them will occur in Asia. Read more