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Preparing for winter: refocusing on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) – a major threat to humanity

Preparing for winter - AMR

Note: due to space, this article was cut down for the purpose of the printed issue, however please find the full article below:

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) is one of the top 10 major global health threats to humans, animals, plants and the environment. Focus seems to have shifted from AMR since the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.  Despite the ongoing challenges faced with the COVID-19 pandemic, AMR continues to be on the rise at an alarming rate and tackling this now may well help prevent another global health pandemic in the coming years.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when antimicrobial agents such as antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics no longer have a destructive effect on pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites respectively. This effectively means pathogens develop mechanisms to protect themselves from antimicrobial agents designed to destroy them. The consequences include infections that are difficult and/or impossible to treat which in turn lead to prolonged course of illness and length of hospital stay with a resultant increase in the risk of disease spread, severe illness, more deaths and higher cost of treatment.

Although AMR is a natural process, it is further driven by human actions through the over and inappropriate prescribing of antimicrobials in healthcare, lack of strict regulations around its sale and supply in some countries, misuse of antimicrobials in the breeding of crops, animals and the resultant misuse of antimicrobials in humans. Other factors that contribute to AMR include, poor sanitation and food handling as well as inadequate infection prevention and control practices in hospitals. AMR is referred to as a global health burden as resistant pathogens also spread through international travel and trade. An article published by the Lancet in 2019 estimated that, almost 5 million deaths were associated with bacterial AMR with 1.27 million deaths regarded as being directly caused by AMR globally. Furthermore, AMR threatens to claim as many as 10 million lives yearly by 2050; this according to the United Nations, is more than the number of people who die from cancer each year globally. Amid all this however, a new class of antibiotic has not been discovered for development in about 36 years and only a handful of antibiotics are currently in the pipeline for development. It is therefore Imperative that the few remaining antimicrobials are used appropriately to prevent them from becoming completely ineffective.

Refocus On AMR – It Affects Us All

While COVID-19 is undeniably still with us, antimicrobial resistance also continues to be on the rise. Let us remember this invisible enemy that poses a major threat to our health and ultimately, our lives.  AMR affects us all and while leaders across the world are doing their bit to combat AMR, we as individuals can also act by increasing awareness of its dangers through education.  Remember, AMR is a global problem, therefore be sure to also spread the word to friends and family abroad, especially those who live in countries that don’t have strict regulation around the sale, supply and use of antimicrobials. In addition to this, resist the temptation of putting pressure on your GP to prescribe antimicrobials for you or others, take antimicrobials exactly as prescribed, do not share or save them for later use and always return any unused antimicrobials to your local pharmacy for safe disposal. Seek urgent medical help if you feel something is seriously wrong. To find out signs and symptoms suggestive of a serious infection, find some self help leaflets here.

Lastly, you can get involved during the WHOs Global Annual Campaign, World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) between 18th – 24th November this winter to help raise awareness and encourage best practices within your local community. The theme for WAAW this year would be ‘Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together’! 


By Salomey Asirifi (Sally), Local Resident and Hospital Pharmacist
Autumn 2023 Issue

Antibiotic Guardian
Call To Action – Make your pledge today and become an Antibiotic Guardian


Global burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019: a systematic analysis. Lancet 2022 [Accessed August 2023]

Antimicrobial resistance: A global threat. United Nations Environment Programme 2023 [Accessed August 2023]

Antimicrobial resistance could be the world’s next pandemic – here’s how we can help address it. Biotechnology Innovation Organisation 2021 [Accessed August 2023]

Antibiotics: past, present and future. Science Direct 2019 [Accessed August 2023]

Antimicrobial resistance. World Health Organisation 2021 [Accessed August 2023]

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