Understanding why bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics, and how to slow development, and lessen the impact, of antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria evolve in a way that renders antibiotic drugs used to kill them ineffective. Antimicrobial resistance concerns resistance not just to antibiotics, but also to other antimicrobials used to treat other microbes, such as viruses, fungi and parasites. 

The world has been slow to recognize the scale of the problem and to act, even though the first record of resistance to quinine as an antimalarial was noted in the 19th century and the first case of penicillin resistance in a patient was recorded in 1947, just five years after the antibiotic went into wide-scale use. 

Drug after drug encounters resistance and too few alternative treatments are coming forward. For example, the gonorrhoea bacterium has become very difficult to treat. Much modern surgery would be impossible if infections cannot be treated. Cancer chemotherapy and organ transplantation would no longer be viable. This is now a real risk, as bacteria continue to develop resistance while the flow of new antibiotics has diminished.

There is a need for better understanding of the factors driving antimicrobial resistance, as well as an assessment of its economic impact and security implications. This project, through collaboration between the human and animal health sectors, will address the following issues:

  • What actions do governments need to take regarding stewardship and infection control?
  • What needs to be done to stimulate new drug development?
  • What cross-sectoral actions, particularly in the food and agricultural sector, need to be taken?
  • What should governments do together to combat this global threat? 

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