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World Antimicrobial Awareness Week: The importance of antimicrobial stewardship

Published Online: November 16th 2022
Article:

“Antimicrobial Awareness Week is a very important event in the calendar of antimicrobial stewards across the world. It is an opportunity for us to raise awareness of the critical importance of antimicrobials for our planet.” – Prof. Karin Thursky, Director of the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship, Melbourne, Australia.

Antimicrobials – antibiotics, antivirals, antiparasitics and antifungals – have been our soundest defence against infectious diseases for a century. 

Antimicrobials protect humans, animals and our agricultural industries. They are critical in the medical treatment of cancer, asthma and in organ transplantation.

But against the surging weight of rapidly evolving microorganisms, the lines are buckling, the flanks are exposed, and we could be overwhelmed by a force evolving much faster than our medical advances.

WATCH: Dr Esmita Charani on tackling global antimicrobial resistance

To prevent a major global health burden, we must stop our overuse and overreliance on antimicrobials, preserving their efficacy for longer.

Since the first ever antimicrobial, arsphenamine (Salvarsan), was synthesised in 1910 – a synthetic compound designed to treat syphilis – and the history-defining discovery of penicillin in 1928, many new antimicrobials have been discovered, and millions of lives have been saved (JMAJ).

However, due to lack of funding and the difficulty in creating these drugs, discovery and development of antimicrobials has slowed since the 1980s (referred to as the ‘Discovery Void’). This means that while the relative abundance of findings since penicillin helped stem developing resistance and new diseases (like the emergence of MRSA in 1961 and its infection surge in the 1990s to the more recent increase of quinolone-resistant E.coli in the 2000s) (JMAJ), our current pace can no longer keep up. 

WATCH: Dr Evangelos Giamarellos-Bourboulis discusses drug resistance in antimicrobials

It is estimated that in 2019 bacterial antimicrobial resistance (AMR) was indirectly associated with nearly 5 million deaths and directly caused 1.27 million deaths. By 2050, it’s estimated that tens of millions could die every year as previously curable infections become incurable again (review on AMR).

Projections like these are why 18-24 November is dedicated to World Antimicrobial Awareness Week.

Prof. Karin Thursky, Director of the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship, outlines the importance and role of antimicrobial stewardship as a means of curbing our current trajectory:

“Antimicrobial stewardship is the action (implementation) arm of the global antimicrobial resistance strategy and it is all about driving judicious use (AND equity of use). 

This year, the National Centre for Antimicrobial Stewardship will use the Learning Health Systems framework to understand better how to create change. The learning health systems approach recognizes that there are technological, cultural and social issues that need to be considered in the implementation of stewardship programs. We will examine how meaningful data needs to be aggregated to create the knowledge that will inform the interventions and then to consider how these interventions need to be implemented using methodologies that consider behaviour change. This will inform the quality of data and drive continuous improvement. I hope that you can join us!”

WATCH: Prof. Karin Thursky on the challenges of sepsis and antimicrobial stewardship programmes in hospitals

That is why touchINFECTIOUS DISEASES avidly supports World Antimicrobial Resistance Week’s campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of AMR and encourage best practices to reduce its spread. 

Learn more by delving into our educational content on AMR.

Alternatively, you can get in touch to find out how you could benefit from our educational activities.

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