Antibiotic Resistance – The Battle Gets Harder

The World Bank estimates that between 1.1% and 3.8% of global GDP could be lost due to antibiotic resistance, (known as antimicrobial resistance /AMR), if left unchecked – roughly the same as the global economic impact of climate change.

At the Extreme Medicine Conference, 23-25 November, Edinburgh, leaders in this field, Drs. Aula Abbara, consultant in Infectious Diseases, and Esmita Charani, Senior Lead Pharmacist, both of Imperial College London, will be talking about AMR, the threat it poses all of us, and how it particularly affects populations in conflict zones, refugees and lower income countries. The World Bank projects that 24 million people could fall into extreme poverty by 2050 because of antimicrobial resistance, most of these people would come from low and middle-income countries.

AMR is a particular worry in war zones with over-prescribing amongst doctors driven by patient expectations and little regulation in the distribution and OTC sale of antibiotics. As an example; several hundred households in Syria were sampled randomly and 85% of responders reported using antimicrobials in the preceding 4 weeks, with only 43% of these courses being prescribed by a healthcare professional.

Aula and Esmita will focus on how medics working in humanitarian settings will encounter this problem and what they can do to treat and mitigate it.

In particular they are interested in “antibiotic stewardship” – what doctors everywhere, and patients can do to ensure antibiotics are used sensibly – so we all have them as a therapeutic option for as long as possible.
They will also discuss how antibiotics are used in hospitals and how poor communication between medical teams often results in antibiotic misuse which will ultimately have an effect on all of us.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the outgoing chief medical officer and the UK’s first Special Envoy on AMR has highlighted it as a ‘catastrophic threat’ which is on par with Climate Change – but the problem has not yet been met with the same levels of interest or activism.

Aula and Esmita commented:
“It’s a sad fact of life that Antibiotic Resistance is just not visual enough to grab the headlines. Conflict destroys health systems and it’s all too easy for a local medic to give an antibiotic when the patient asks for it. That’s also increasingly true in many western health systems.
The scale of the problem cannot be exaggerated – and we need to do something to address it fast.”

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