Global efforts needed to combat antimicrobial resistance

More research is needed to find the best ways of identifying the underlying causes and combatting the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) around the world, according to a comment article published this week in The Lancet.

The comment led by UCLH infectious diseases consultant and NIHR senior investigator Professor Sir Ali Zumla, and other researchers from India, Middle East, Africa, Europe and South America calls for a more co-ordinated universal approach to tackling AMR, similar to how the world had come together during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Antimicrobial resistance causes an estimated 4.95 million deaths annually and is a leading cause of death worldwide. At the current rate of increase, annual deaths from AMR are expected to rise to 10 million by 2050.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of severe illness and death.

Sir Ali said: “AMR continues to be a major problem throughout the NHS and hospitals around the world. We see it daily in our clinical ward rounds at UCLH, as well at healthcare facilities worldwide. Apart from current antibiotic stewardship guidelines for judicious use of antibiotics, a more comprehensive and coordinated action plan between the human-environmental-and animal health sectors (ONE-HEALTH) is required on an international scale to carefully define the underlying causes and find novel ways to prevent further emergence and spread of resistant microorganisms.”

Authors of the Lancet comment highlight that a neglected, yet important area of research is the emergence, cryptic spread and globalization of antibiotic-resistant bacteria by attendees of mass gathering religious, sporting and festival events. They said these priority studies should be developed in close consultation with host governments and representative of communities attending these gatherings.

The comment was published in advance of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) from 18 to 24 November. The awareness week is an annual global campaign. A key aim of WAAW) is to improve awareness of AMR through effective communication, education and training and encourage best practices amongst doctors, healthcare workers, One Health stakeholders and policymakers.

Find out more about World Antimicrobial Awareness Week on the World Health Organisation website.

Read the comment in The Lancet.

Find out more about UCL and UCLH AMR work.