What is Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)?

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) arises when the organisms that cause infection evolve ways to survive treatments. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.

The term antimicrobial includes antibiotic, antiprotozoal, antiviral and antifungal medicines.

Resistance is a natural biological phenomenon but is increased and accelerated by various factors such as misuse of medicines, poor infection control practices and global trade and travel.

antibiotic resistance info-graphic Image copyright WHO

AMR is a particular concern with antibiotics. Many of the medical advances in recent years, for example, organ transplantation and cancer chemotherapy need antibiotics to prevent and treat the bacterial infections that can be caused by the treatment. Without effective antibiotics, even minor surgery and routine operations could become high-risk procedures if serious infections can’t be treated. AMR increases the cost of health care with lengthier stays in hospitals and more intensive care required.

Unchecked, AMR could have profound global effects. Food production, for example, is reliant on antimicrobials. Untreatable infections in animals, fish or plants therefore could threaten a sustainable food supply.

Unrestricted, AMR is predicted to cost $100 trillion by 2050, driving an extra 28 million people into extreme poverty through shortfalls in economic outputs.

As a result, controlling and containing AMR is currently an international priority. A multi-faceted approach must be used because the emergence of resistance stems from behaviour across human and animal health. The development of new antibiotics and alternative therapeutics, the rational use of antibiotics in human and animal health (stewardship), more effective use of diagnostics, improvements to water, sanitation, hygiene and vaccines themselves can all support efforts to combat AMR.

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The Role of Vaccines in Preventing Infectious Diseases and Antimicrobial Resistance

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