The evidence is clear: The more we use antimicrobials the more we increase antimicrobial resistance.
Antibiotics and resistance
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of micro-organisms (these include bacteria, viruses and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial drug (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. As a result, standard medical treatments have become ineffective, infections persist, and they may spread to others. The most critical issue is in the resistance of highly infectious strains of bacteria to antibiotics. Health care professionals are left with limited or, in some instances, no available treatment options. This is compounded by no new antibiotics being discovered in the last 30 years.
Over the past 60 years science and technology has allowed for dramatic increases in food production from animals to meet the demands of consumers. This has included the use of antibiotics to treat and prevent disease alongside improvements in genetics, housing, nutrition, biosecurity, husbandry, veterinary medicine, farm business management and economies of scale. The use of antimicrobials in these systems to ensure the health and wellbeing of animals and to ensure the safety of food entering the food chain. The emergence of increasing levels of antimicrobial resistance now challenges these accepted practices, and emphasises the need to find alternatives to protect the efficacy of these important medicines while continuing to ensure animal wellbeing and the safety of our food.
In a recent review of antimicrobial resistance in the UK (published in 2014)
- An estimated 10 million extra deaths per year are predicted by 2050.
- Major effect on surgeries which have become entirely routine in many parts of the world but are dependent upon the availability of effective antibiotics to make them comparatively low risk.
- When combined with the other effects of antimicrobial resistance the world's economy could lose more than 7% of its GDP by 2050.
- Much of the problem stems from misuse, using the wrong antibiotic, treating when no bacteria are involved, not completing the course of a treatment.