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The Threats of Antimicrobial Resistance

By Miriam Bello | Mon, 05/25/2020 - 16:48

WHO describes antimicrobial or antibiotic resistance (AMR) as the threat of effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungi. AMR happens when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. This means that germs are not only killed but they also continue growing to the point of making infections impossible to treat.  According to the Center of Disease Control Prevention (CDC), this means that bacteria has become resistant to  antibiotics, instead of the body becoming more resistant.

About 700 thousand people die each year due to AMR that has developed on infectious pathogens such as tuberculosis, HIV, malaria and staph infections. This resistance also duplicates the possibility of developing a healthcare complication as well as increasing the possibility of death due to the limitation of antibiotic treatments. 

In response to this problem, the AMR Industry Alliance was created in juncture with the Big Pharma leaders of the industry. In 2018, Mexico created National Strategy of Action Against Antimicrobial Resistance in which it is highlighted that, aside from developing resistance, they will incur in higher expenses, as the patient will need a longer treatment with specialized medicine, likely to be far more expensive. The actual announcement of the strategy was made two years ago but it was on March, 2020 when the in-depth steps where published:

  • Raise awareness and comprehension about the subject through training, education and effective communication
  • Research and vigilance to reinforce knowledge and evidence on AMR
  • Preventive healthcare to reduce infections through hygiene and effective sanitary measures
  • Strengthen regulation on commercialization and selection of antimicrobial products and diagnostic methods for infectious diseases

Mexico has made this strategy an obligatory agreement to comply among healthcare institutions but also agricultural ones (as it also affects animals) and environmental institutions.

According to the Ministry of Health, it is unknown how many people die to the incorrect use of antibiotics. Health officials admit that there is a need to strengthen epidemiological data to determine the presence of AMR in the population. Nevertheless,  Deputy Minister of Health has said that this current administration is seeking to strengthen regulation and create public policies that will help determine the status of AMR. In the past Mexico prohibited the purchase of antibiotics without medical prescription due to the high persistence of self-medication, something that strongly contributes to generating AMR.

PAHO representatives in Mexico said that in 2050 there will be 10 million people with AMR that will affect health, economic and social sectors due to the increase of medical treatments expenses, the effects on the agricultural sector and the risk that people will fall into poverty due to healthcare expenses. Mexico’s representative on PAHO urged the country to take more action into the subject during a meeting at the end of last year.

Does AMR play a role during COVID-19? A study made by BMJ on Asian patents with COVID-19 positive tests found that frequent use of broad-spectrum antibiotics designed to kill a wide range of bacteria can spur AMR through overuse. This result has raised concerns that increased antibiotic use during the pandemic could increase the long-term threat of AMR.

While there is still confusion on the subject during COVID-19, this exceptional case has forced the WHO to begin recommending a safe and responsible use for antibiotics.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
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Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst