Latest research regarding antibiotic resistance was revealed at the 2019 World Extreme Medicine Conference (#WEM19) that took place in Edinburgh, as well as discussions on a few of the issues surrounding this current threat, such as over prescribing, lack of regulation and illicit OTC sales.
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), the ability of a microorganism to stop an antimicrobial from working against it if left unchecked – roughly the same as the global economic impact of climate change.
At #WEM19, leaders in this field, Dr’s. Aula Abbara, Consultant in Infectious Diseases, and Esmita Charani, Senior Lead Pharmacist, both of Imperial College London, talked 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.
During their informative session on Day 2 of the conference (Disaster and Humanitarian Medicine), Aula and Esmita focused on how medics working in humanitarian settings will encounter this problem and what they can do to treat and mitigate it.
In particular they spoke about “antibiotic stewardship” – what doctors and patients anywhere in the world can do to ensure antibiotics are used sensibly – so we have them available to us as a therapeutic option for as long as possible. They also discussed how antibiotics are currently being 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.”
Book your tickets to #WEM20 and join the discussion on world health issues and how they could impact the work of you and your team.