Antimicrobial resistance – or AMR - is a major global health challenge. The ability of microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, to develop resistance to antibiotics and antivirals threatens many of the gains made in global health over recent decades.Ongoing
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is defined as the resistance of a microorganism to an antimicrobial treatment to which it was previously sensitive.
We see AMR develop in bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites. Existing antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral and antiparasitic drugs are made ineffective by AMR with use over time. Although AMR occurs naturally in microbes and cannot be eliminated, practices for treating human infections and misuse of antimicrobials in agriculture both accelerate the development of AMR, and these can be improved to preserve our existing antimicrobial treatments for longer.
In recent years, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been recognised as a serious global threat, and one of the most critical health challenges of our time. Each year, at least 700,000 people die worldwide due to drug resistant infections in diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS.
If no action is taken, it has been predicted that by 2050 the number of deaths related to AMR will increase to 10 million people a year. This will make even routine minor surgeries and other medical practices, including chemotherapy, a serious risk. Therefore, AMR has been deemed a research priority which must be tackled internationally.
Without research into surveillance and diagnosis techniques, new treatments, and international shifts in practices for using existing treatments, the world risks facing a crisis in multi-drug resistant microbial infections.
This page outlines the Academy’s activities that address AMR.
In October 2017, the Academy announced a pledge from The Yusuf and Farida Hamied Foundation for a scheme to build stronger research links between the UK and India to jointly address the challenge of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
This pledge from the Hamied Foundation supports a five-year programme of work on AMR. The UK and India both face significant AMR challenges. India is one of the world’s biggest users of antibiotics, and use more than doubled between 2000 and 2015. Data from surveillance networks have identified extremely high rates of resistance to common infections, necessitating the use of more complex and expensive treatments. In the UK, the proportion of bloodstream infections resistant to key antibiotics has been relatively stable, and antibiotic use declined between 2014 and 2017. However, there are significant concerns about the potential impact of carbapenem-resistant bacteria and the growing prevalence of highly drug-resistant gonorrhoea.
The five-year programme aims to strengthen ties between the UK and India, using comparisons between the two countries and the sharing of experience to open up opportunities for mutual learning, as well as for the development of new research collaborations drawing on the strengths of the science bases in each country. The programme includes two major scientific meetings and a UK-India visiting professorship scheme. The first meeting took place in London in February 2019. The Meeting explored the findings from collaborative research on the interactions of human health, animal health, and the environment alongside the research and policy actions that have been taken in the UK and India to address this challenge. In addition, the symposium helped to identify areas for continued or future research that will impact on policy and action. Further information about this meeting can be found on the meeting website.
Professorship scheme supports the travel and subsistence costs of UK researchers wishing to visit India to develop long-term collaborations in this field of biomedical research: AMS Hamied Foundation UK-India AMR Visiting Professorships.
The Academy is grateful to the steering committee members support and input on the programme.
- Professor David Heymann CBE FMedSci [Chair], Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
- Professor Jeffery Errington FRS FMedSci, Director of the Centre for Bacterial Cell Biology, Newcastle University
- Dr Abdul Ghafur, Coordinator, Chennai declaration on antimicrobial resistance
- Professor Alison Holmes FMedSci, Professor of Infectious Diseases, Imperial College London
- Dr Shahid Jameel, Chief Executive Officer, Wellcome Trust DBT India Alliance
- Professor Asad Khan, Professor of Biotechnology, Aligarh Muslim University
- Professor Richard Kock, Professor of Wildlife Health and Emerging Diseases, Royal Veterinary College
- Professor Sharon Peacock CBE FMedSci, Honorary Senior Research Fellow; University of Cambridge
- Dr Radha Rangarajan, co-founder and CEO of Vitas Pharma
- Professor Balaji Veeraraghavan, Professor and Head of Microbiology, Christian Medical College, Vellore
In November 2013, the Academy endorsed the joint statement ‘Antimicrobial Resistance: A Call for Action’ published by the InterAcademy Panel (IAP) and the InterAcademy Medical Panel (IAMP). The statement, which makes recommendations on addressing antimicrobial resistance internationally, was endorsed by 45 national Academies including the Academy of Medical Sciences.
In October 2013, the Academy provided written evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee’s inquiry on AMR. This included a request for feedback on the Department of Health’s UK Five Year Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2013 to 2018. Some of the Academy’s Fellows also gave oral evidence to the committee.
Senior Policy Officer
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