Page 4 - Greenbank Review SP 2019
P. 4

Greenbank Review Spring 2019
Preserving the miracle cure
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019, health secretary Matt Hancock made the case for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to be regarded as a global health emergency, outlining the UK’s 20-year plan to cut the unnecessary prescription of antibiotics and reduce the number of drug-resistant infections.
Matt Crossman, Stewardship Director, Rathbone Investment Management
    Prior to the discovery and refinement of antibiotics, there was a strong likelihood that the simplest of bacterial infections
could prove fatal. Surgical procedures, communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and even childbirth all presented serious infection risks that were largely untreatable
in the pre-antibiotic age. Accepting his share
of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1945 for his discovery of benzylpenicillin
17 years earlier, Sir Alexander Fleming acknowledged its phenomenal success in saving lives, but also warned that an intelligent and cautious use of antibiotics would be necessary to maintain their effectiveness.
That warning has largely gone unheeded: widespread overprescription has enabled infectious bacteria to evolve and strengthen their resistance to antibiotics. Consequently, AMR is now recognised as one of the most significant threats to public health today
as existing treatments become ineffective and bacteria quickly develop resilience
to new formulas.
In 2013, federal health officials in the US estimated that at least 23,000 Americans
a year were dying from antibiotic-resistant infections: six years previously, the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention determined that around 100,000 were dying annually from infections caught in hospitals.
Understanding AMR
The threat posed by AMR becomes clearer with the understanding of how bacteria function and proliferate. It’s estimated that the human body contains around
100 trillion bacterial cells, many of which function to keep us well. Many others, however, can cause sickness and have done so throughout human history:
in 2008, for example, the human tuberculosis strain was discovered
in a 9,000-year-old Neolithic burial site submerged in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Bacteria are both durable and highly adaptable with an extraordinary capacity to reproduce singular or ‘block’ alterations and resistances. Beyond our individual failings as patients to complete antibiotic courses, we can also point to the widespread prescription of antibiotics for drug-resistant illnesses.

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